Last year, I read all three in the Divergent novels in one go. Teenage fiction is always fascinating, as it usually has a strong moral tone to it, and I’ve always enjoyed reading utopian and dystopian future books – especially ones where the things that we don’t even think about are encountered for the first time and have to be explained!
Over the past weekend, I’ve watched the two films that are available on Amazon Prime (trailers here).
The final part of the trilogy is not yet available outside of the cinema, but a few bits that I enjoyed from the book I’ll share here:
There is something deeply wrong with taking a person’s memories… Take a person’s memories, and you change who they are.
There’s a section in the book when Tris and Four realise that everything that they thought was true isn’t real – and they question all the stories that they’ve been told, everything that they believed – and wonder how they’ve been ‘concocted by a bunch of scientists to keep us under control’ – and what does that mean for the behaviours based upon those beliefs (links to my PhD thesis there!)… as she realises that what she thought was her whole world is ‘so small as to be negligible’ in the wider picture.
The following from 81% into the book reminds me of Foucault’s theories of power-knowledge as used in my PhD – but also something I often say regarding digital technology – it’s like a brick – it enables certain things, but you can choose the actual use to which it’s put:
“Knowledge is power. Power to do evil, like Jeanine … or power to do good, like what we’re doing. Power itself is not evil. So knowledge itself is not evil.”
In the final book, there’s a notion that anyone who is not divergent is damaged, and there’s a struggle to overcome that notion, understanding that there is simply ‘difference’ arbitrarily defined by those with power, rather than one form of ‘being’ being better than the other.
“People are isolated, starving,” Nita says quietly. “They know only what they’re taught, they see only the information that’s made available to them. And who controls all that? The government.”
The people in the government bureau don’t appear to know their own history:
Evelyn tried to control people by controlling weapons, but Jeanine was more ambitious – she knew that when you control information, or manipulate it, you don’t need force to keep people under your thumb. They stay there willingly.
The book deals with some deep issues including what is love (not fairy tales, but a daily commitment to choose to love the other), ethical decisions (is it worth one death to save millions) and if so, whose. As Tris struggles with her brother’s betrayal:
To me, when someone wrongs you, you both share the burden of that wrongdoing – the pain of it weighs on both of you. Forgiveness, then, means choosing to bear the full weight all by yourself.
The leaders of the new order are challenged at their notion that they get to choose when others are ‘sacrificed’, and with Tris gone, Four (now Tobias) has to find a new ‘sort of bravery’
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.
The book has lots of insight and depth – the film, not unnaturally, will focus more on the action and romance elements. The trailer does not look like it’s “too” close to the notion that ‘outside the wall’ the government agency is based in Chicago O’Hare airport, flying original old planes!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.