In today’s post, I aim to analyze the popular Divergent series by Veronica Roth and it’s sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. This will contain possible spoilers, but I will address those in the second part of the post, with the first part primarily being analytical and critical, rather than addressing actual content. So I hope you enjoy.
The first thing I want to address is the style this is written in. The entire series is written quite casually and simply, making it an easy read. If I had to guess, I would guess this is somewhere around 450-650 lexile score, which is somewhere between fourth and sixth grade reading level, as far as difficulty. The vocabulary isn’t very advanced, the sentence structure isn’t very complex, and that is fine for its purpose, which is to tell a story without talking about political or philosophical ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed the series, it is actually one of my favorite series I’ve ever read, the writing just isn’t very advanced, which again, is alright, it’s still a very enjoyable read.
One complaint I have about the writing is that it was sometimes a little difficult to follow. The main character, Tris, narrates the story, and there was a surprising lack of dialogue between her and other people. It wasn’t absent, but for a main character, she doesn’t communicate out loud with a lot of other characters, which may just be part of her character, but I would have like to see her talk more rather than hearing all about her from her thoughts. On the subject of speech, the way Roth sets some conversations up, it becomes difficult to differentiate between thought, explanation, and actual words. I found myself having to reread paragraphs multiple times because I missed a quotation mark that marked the beginning or end of speech. Also relating to speech, I noticed that there were very few contractions used in speech. “I am” doesn’t become “I’m”, “it is” doesn’t become “it’s”, and so on. Maybe there are different grammatical rules in this Chicago, but the presence of any contractions makes it a little awkward sometimes, and even a little clunky sometimes.
The plot is well flushed out though, and I must commend her for this. The dystopian novel has seen a massive rise in popularity, with The Hunger Games leading the charge in modern day, but Roth found a way to make hers unique. Of course, it follows the same sort of story line as other dystopian novels, usually including a rebellion and ending with peace, but, here is where some spoilers happen, the second novel went a completely different direction than I thought it would take. Typically, the villain lives until the last novel and dies in the end, but I was surprised to see Jeanine Matthews killed at the end of the second one, and that left me wondering where the rest of the series would go, but it was all put together well. The first two books cover one plot, while the last book covers a completely different plot that ties in very well, which is commendable, and it makes me think of an insect, three different sections joined together, but in this case the first two books are the same thing, if that makes sense. I also think the factions system is a cool twist to the plot that actually lends itself well to the story and makes it unique. Even after the faction system is abolished at the end of book two, the characters couldn’t stop thinking that way, which makes me wonder if there is anything I was raised with that applies in the same way. Also, after the faction system was abolished, I found myself wondering which form of government was really the best. The faction system worked well I thought, except for its negligence of the factionless, and it could have been solved and made better if the factionless were treated better, perhaps even given their own faction, a “Hufflepuff” faction if you will. On the other hand, Evelyn’s promise of a pure democratic society was not a bad idea, but she was so adamant that the factions be disbanded that she forgot about the half of the population who still supported the faction system. No form of government, even the kind outside of Chicago that is dealt with in Allegiant is a good government. Overall though, the plot was well done, and I’ll address more about the third book later. Spoilers end.
Character development was also well done. The two characters who I thought should have seen more development were Will and Al, who after both their deaths shook Tris and Christina, but they didn’t shake me, and I didn’t see why they, Tris particularly, were so shaken. I understand they were all friends, but Will felt so underdeveloped that when Tris shot him, I didn’t feel anything, but Tris was scarred so bad she couldn’t use a gun for the entire second book and it got her into a ton of trouble with Jeanine, Christina, and Tobias. However, the main characters were very well done, and even the supporting characters. I felt like I knew who Tris was, and Christina, and Tobias, and even people like Caleb, Marcus, and Evelyn were well developed. I found myself angry when people made choices, but the choices did feel consistent with character growth. I never quite understood why everyone had such a hard time telling the truth and forgiving each other, but I guess that they worked out alright. The characters felt real and their interactions were believable in most cases, so I feel like that is one of the strong aspects of the novels.
Now to jump into more personal feelings about the story and its plot. I read the entire series over six days, reading virtually every moment I could. I felt like there was an overwhelming amount of anger and negativity in the series, and I didn’t like that part. Most of the second book had Tris and Tobias separated and unwilling to cooperate, and that was entirely frustrating as an outside observer. So many problems could have been avoided if some characters had just been honest with each other. Supposedly, Tris and Tobias love each other, and I fully bought that relationship. But, people in relationships are supposed to be honest with each other, and regardless of their upbringings, I thought that they would be eager to spill their guts to each other. Both went through rough experiences, most of Tobias’s relating back to his childhood, but they are a couple, and I was very angry when people refused to tell the truth and went back on their word. Due to this, while I think the second book had the best writing and plot, the relationships were poisonous and treacherous, and caused me to yearn for them all to make up. They consistently made promises that they never intended to keep, which was kind of just like watching a time bomb tick down.
As for relationships, that was by far my favorite part of the book. Tobias and Tris were awesome characters and I really wanted for them to stay united the entire way, because that’s when they were the most effective and made for a good relationship. But, there were countless times where one of them decided they knew better than the other and complicated everything further, for example, when Tris told Tobias that she wasn’t going to walk into the Erudite headquarters when Jeanine threatened to kill three people every other night for as long as it took a Divergent to sacrifice themselves. Naturally, Tris decided to act rashly, and while it all worked out in the end, it was a complication. Maybe it was necessary, but boy did it put a dent in her relationship with Tobias, and the same goes for in Allegiant when Tobias helps Nita break into the Bureau. Nothing good seems to come from them betraying each other. There was betrayal at every turn from everyone, and I was powerless to do anything about it. But back to the relationship, I was rooting for the two of them entire time. Tobias was my favorite character, and I thought that the two of them were great for each other. Both of them were broken, Divergent (I don’t care about Tobias, he’s still Divergent to me, it doesn’t matter what his genes say), and they both filled each other’s’ holes. Tobias was strong and handsome for Tris which helped her self-doubt and he taught her how to succeed. Tris was the only person who loved Tobias for a long time, and it was great to see him get some love that he wanted and needed. Some of their love scenes were slightly erotic, and even though they weren’t married, I didn’t find that it bothered me. I never actually could tell if they actually had sex, because every time they came close, one of them backed out. I think it might have happened in the third book, but it was never directly stated and any inferences were fairly vague whether they had sex or just slept on the same couch. Either way, I found the relationship to be compelling and honestly, I liked Tobias so much I wish I could be a little more like him. I could tell that they would get married at the earliest opportunity, if Tris didn’t die in the end. That broke my heart, not because she died, but because the other half of Tobias died. His reaction made me nearly cry, I couldn’t bear to see him in such pain, and there just isn’t a way that he can heal from that. Tris had to die I think, because most books kill off a major character nowadays, or someone very close to the main character. If they don’t they run the risk of making a book “unrealistic” and more “idealistic”. Nobody wants their loved ones to die, but unfortunately that’s what happens in times of war and rebellion. If Tris didn’t die, Tobias would have. Not even Christiana would be powerful enough a death to satisfy it.
Anyway, the relationship was awesome and well created. I was actually bothered when they weren’t together, almost like I was watching Friends and begging Ross and Rachel to get back together. The supporting characters were also compelling, particularly Caleb, Cara, Christina, Uriah, and Johanna. Caleb played a big role less for his actions and more for just his presence in different situations. Caleb is also what ultimately caused Tris’s death, because she loved him and didn’t want him to sacrifice himself as repayment out of guilt. Cara is one of the only Erudite characters, aside from Caleb, who is in anyway developed, and is a constant reminder to Tris of what she did to Will. But I liked her. She showed that Erudites are not completely evil which everyone makes them out to be. Christina was Tris’s best friend for most of the series, and also a reminder of what she’s done wrong and who she’s hurt, but she is also a forgiver, which is something I was happy to see. Uriah was fairly minor, but I liked that he was a friend to Tris the entire way. They never had any fights, and whenever Tris was in a bad mood, Uriah was there to lighten the mood. Johanna is the only Amity to receive any sort of development in significance. Her growth from a pacifist to a revolutionary advocating peace was a nice transformation, and I really liked what Amity stood for. Of all the five factions, Amity saw the least attention, so she stood out for that reason too.
There are also numerous good themes to be drawn from the factions and the actions of everyone. I’ve already addressed some, like lying and betrayal aren’t good, obviously, but the faction manifestos and the resulting failure of the factions show a ton about life. Tobias’s desire to be all five is the same deal. All five of those qualities are necessary for complete happiness and prosperity. None of them should be more prominent than the other, despite Erudite believing that Erudite and Amity are the “essential factions”, but the rest of them can be disposed of. I don’t believe that. I also had a huge issue with the GP and GD stuff from Allegiant. It echoes the stuff from America’s past with civil rights for black people, women, and other such groups. Genetics shouldn’t matter to them. I thought it was stupid that Tobias got so upset about being “damaged” and I agreed with Tris when she said that he was the same person he was before he knew he wasn’t technically Divergent. None of them are better than the other, the only measure of success should be yourself, and Tobias’s idea that he was limited by his genes is silly. Just like I wrote in my “Man Points” blog, they shouldn’t let anyone determine their worth, they’re all whole and complete in themselves, they’re all 100% human with personalities, wants, and needs. I hated hearing him say that. None of them are more special than the other, in the same way as nobody is better than the other on regard of race or sex.
That’s all I really want to say, but of course, there is an infinite amount of stuff to talk about the series, and I’m open to conversation in the comments. Let me know what you guys think about the stories and the blog, and I’ll talk to you all later.