To get the most from this SummaReview of Divergent by Veronica Roth, after you have read it, answer the following questions:
- Is this a book you’d like to read for yourself? Why? Why not?
- What has made an impression while reading?
- Based on the description of the factions, what faction would you have been born in, and if you decided to transfer, where would you transfer to?
- Were there any kernels of wisdom in this reading?
- Is there a framework that you can use in your life and work?
- What are five takeaways from the SummaReview?
- What is one action that you can take as a result of reading this SummaReview?
Divergent by Veronica Roth is set in Dystopian Chicago where the residents are from five factions – Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Amity and Dauntless – which are the traits that best describe and embody them. Residents have to conform to the norms of their factions.
Abnegation: Selflessness (self-denial, renunciation)
Candor: Honesty (frankness, sincerity, openness)
Erudite: Knowledgeable (learned, scholarly, wise, intelligent)
Amity: Kindness (friendliness, cordiality, peace)
Dauntless: Fearless (brave, audacious, bold, daring)
For example, in their world, the Dauntless are the protectors of the city, the Erudite, the keepers of knowledge, and the city is ruled by a council, comprised of 50 representatives from Abnegation since they are unlikely to be corrupt because they are always thinking about the needs of others. People come of age in Dystopian Chicago at age 16 when they have to make a tough choice that will impact their future.
Protagonist Beatrice Prior is at that age, and so is her brother Caleb who is only 10 months older. At this age, the young people have to decide if they want to remain in the faction they were born in, or transfer to another. The first stage in the process is an assessment test designed to predict the faction most suited for the youth, and then the youth gets to decide for herself/himself which faction she/he wants to go to.
Though Beatrice is from Abnegation, she is not a very selfless person, and she knows it and doesn’t pretend to be what she is not. To her, her brother Caleb better embodies the spirit of Abnegation. For instance, Caleb will give his seat to another on the bus, while it doesn’t cross Beatrice’s mind to do that. In Abnegation, when you are having dinner, the children are not supposed to talk unless they are first spoken to. Beatrice cannot help herself, she is always asking questions to satisfy her curiosity, though she knows the rules.
One evening during dinner, Beatrice’s father tells them about the accusation made in a report by Jeannette Matthews from Erudite, which accuses Marcus, an influential council member, of cruelty and violence toward his son, Tobias, as the reason why the young man chose Dauntless instead of Abnegation at the Choosing Ceremony. The reader gets an insider look into Dystopian Chicago and we can see that separating people by their aptitude is not a great system.
Abnegation is a drab place to be because of the sameness of the people. They have the same hairstyle, the same clothing, they more or less act the same way. They eat plain food because anything different is viewed as extravagance. They fade into the background.
During the assessment test, a simulation program tries to determine how people will respond in various situations, to discover the faction that they are best suited for. Beatrice’s test is inconclusive – it rules out Amity and Candor, but she has equal aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudite. Her results are perplexing. Beatrice is a Divergent. Her tester Tori, warns Beatrice not to tell anyone about her test score and decides to verbally report the results of the test. Tori deletes the results of Beatrice’s test score from the computer. Why is this important?
Before the actual Choosing Ceremony where the youth get to decide for themselves which faction they are choosing, Caleb tells Beatrice that they should not only think about their parents, but also think about themselves. Beatrice is also convinced that her brother will choose Abnegation because he is such a selfless person. Immediately before the Ceremony begins, Beatrice’s father kisses her forehead and claps Caleb on the back, saying, see you later. There is not doubt in his mind that his children will choose to remain in Abnegation. On the other hand, the mother tells them that she loves them no matter what. That is very reassuring for Beatrice.
Caleb chooses Erudite, which shocks Beatrice, now she is conflicted because she doesn’t want her parents to be without children. But in the end, Beatrice chooses Dauntless, she does what she believes is best for her – she is not selfless enough. After the Choosing Ceremony the young adults go to their new factions. Both the young adults who transfer and those born to the faction, have to go through a gruelling set of test to ensure that they indeed have the aptitude for the faction they have chosen. If they fail the test, they become factionless, which is the worst possible place to be, and they can be assured of a life of poverty and hardship.
One of the signatures of the Dauntless is their ability to jump on and off trains without them stopping. That is the first thing that Beatrice, and all the other Dauntless initiates have to do. Shortly after, they have to leap off the train on to a roof. Several stories below is the entrance to the Dauntless compound, but to get there, the initiates have to jump into a black hole not knowing if there is a security net there waiting to cushion their fall. Beatrice decides to go first, and leaps off the roof into the hole, and there is indeed a net to beak her fall.
All initiates from the five factions have to go through rigorous testing, and the test for each faction is geared to that faction. Even if you were born to the faction you choose, you undergo the same testing as the transfers. The only difference is that in the first stage of the initiation process, transfers are separated from initiates who are born to the faction. For each stage, the initiates are ranked and those who are in the top 10 become Dauntless members, the others become factionless.
Divergent by Veronica Roth focuses primarily on the Dauntless faction because that’s where Beatrice Prior is. For her, Dauntless is the beginning of a new life, the name Beatrice no longer suits her so she changes it to Tris.
The training includes three stages: Stage one is primarily physical; Stage Two emotional and Stage Three is primarily mental. And the training is meant to remove cowardice. Four and Eric oversee the training of the initiates (We later learn that Four’s real name is Tobias, the son of Marcus from Abnegation, who was abused). The first stage of the training is very difficult for Tris because she is small for her age, but she is very agile and quick which helps her. Her mental conditioning is strong, and you see her giving herself many pep talks to keep going. Most of Divergent is focused on the training and you experience Tris’ evolution from an ordinary person to someone extraordinary, and see a relationship developing between her and Four.
One of the stages of the initiation process is a simulation test, and because Tris is a Divergent she knows that what she is experiencing is not real. There is also another simulation which recreates the initiates’ greatest fears, which helps them to overcome those fears, or at least to confront them. Once again this poses a problem, and once again there is someone there to assist her. Four deletes her score, and realizes that Tris is Divergent. Four warns her that she needs to pretend and not show that she knows the difference between reality and a simulation.
As the story unfolds we realize that though Dauntless is supposed to be a place for the courageous, they do not want people who are different who will question authority, and some of the tests are designed to uncover those who are divergent so they can be eliminated. Things are seldom as they appear.
Parents are able to visit during the training, but Tris doesn’t expect her parents because of her transfer. However, her mother comes to Dauntless to visit her. During their conversation, Tris discloses that she is divergent, which her mother already suspects. Her mother tells her what to do so that she doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to herself. By her mother’s actions and the way she behaves during the visit, Tris cannot help but wonder if her mother was born in Dauntless. Because of tensions between Erudite and Abnegation, the mother cannot visit Erudite to see her son, so she asks Tris to go there and ask Caleb to research the simulation serum.
At the end of the training, all the initiates are injected with what turns out to be a serum which is meant to control their minds, so that they start a revolt against Abnegation to kill members of the government and take control. The simulation serum transforms all who are injected with it into killing machines. The leaders of Dauntless are in collusion with Jeannette Matthews from Erudite whose IQ is off the charts – she is the one who creates the serum. They all want power and the ability to control the masses.
Because Four (Tobias) and Tris are divergents, they do not respond to the serum. They pretend that they are under the control of others, but their secret is discovered and they are both captured. Tris is shot in the shoulder and is bleeding. Jeannette tweaks the formula for the simulation serum so that it alters what people see and hear – it alters their surrounding and that’s how she will control divergents. Tobias is given the new simulation serum and he sees enemies as friends and friends as enemies. Tris is knocked out and locked into a small room and left to die. The room is also filling up with water. Her mother rescues her and they leave Dauntless to prevent the insurrection against Abnegation.
Tris’ mother dies to save her life. Her father, Caleb and Marcus go back to Dauntless with her because she has to get to the computer to shut down the simulation program. In the battle in Dauntless, her father also dies to save her. Perhaps her parents have faith that Tris has the fortitude and skill to save Abnegation. In the control room is Tobias who sees Tris as the enemy because of the simulation serum. She refuses to kill him and appeals to his deeper self, the one that loves her. Tobias finally snaps out from under the control of the serum. They remove the computer hard drive. The book ends, but the story is not finished, the reader knows there has to be an insurgency.
Divergent by Veronica Roth is a page turner and very well written. It’s not only a coming of age story, but it also demonstrates how power corrupts the corruptible. A “world” cannot function where people who are similar stick together, we have to interact with each other so we can appreciate differences. Dystopian societies do not work, and as leaders, we have to walk the talk. Divergent is a phenomenal book that we can learn many lessons from.
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