A closer look at… Divergent

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly. This guide was written by Hannah Rowe.

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Divergent is rated 12 for moderate violence, threat. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Like The Hunger Games (2012 and 2013) and How I Live Now (2013), Divergent follows the journey of a teenage girl in a dystopian society. Chicago is a city of ruins surrounded by an impenetrable fence, and its inhabitants live peacefully due to a system of segregation. Everyone lives in one of the five different factions: Abnegation, who value selflessness above all; Dauntless, who value bravery; Erudite, knowledge; Candor, truthfulness; or Amity, who value friendship. Every citizen takes an aptitude test when they turn sixteen to determine the faction to which they are best suited. The results are then used to guide them as they pledge their lifelong allegiance to a faction. When the choice is made there is no going back. In this world faction comes before blood. The only other option is to be one of the factionless, who are left homeless and starving.

Abnegation-raised Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), however, is different. Her aptitude tests are inclusive. She does not belong in one faction: she is ‘divergent’. At the choosing ceremony she is torn between staying with her family in Abnegation and the allure of the exciting, dangerous Dauntless, and at the last moment chooses the latter. Once the choice is made she enters a rigorous training programme, since Dauntless only take the best recruits and those too weak and fearful will be sent to live factionless. Her training instructor is the mysterious, handsome Four (Theo James) who begins to take an interest in his courageous, determined recruit. But even as Tris begins to finally feel that she’s found a place where she belongs, it becomes apparent that, being divergent, she can never truly belong anywhere. To be divergent is to be a threat to the system: a system that is slowly crumbling and will do all it can to eliminate this threat.

Dig Deeper

  • What was your initial response to the film? Did you enjoy it, and why, or why not? What did you find particularly interesting about it?
  • How does Divergent compare to any other dystopian films you’ve seen? What did you think of the dystopian Chicago created as the backdrop for the film? What impact does this specific location have on the film and your reaction? What did you think about the presentation of the five factions?
  • Divergent is the first in a trilogy. What impact does knowing this have on the way you viewed the film? If you’ve read Veronica Roth’s books, how does the film compare?
  • What did you think of the character of Tris? How does she change over the course of the film? What aspects of her journey, if any, did you relate to?

Film Review Divergent

  • How did you react to the relationship between Four and Tris? What initially attracts them to each other? How does their relationship grow, and is it believable?
  • How did you react to each of the deaths in the film (Al, Will, Tris’ parents, unnamed characters)? How do they affect Tris? Did the film seem to offer any hope in its presentation of death, or did it seem futile?
  • What are the different factions of the film’s world and how do they work together to create a peaceful society? What is the ultimate problem they are trying to solve? Are there any aspects of the faction system already present in our society, and could factions be a solution to the problems in our society? Would they work, and why or why not?

‘Faction before blood yeah? I got it.’ – Tris

  • Why do you think the society in Divergent propagates this view? Are families threats to peace, and why might this be the case? Can a faction fully replace a family, and why or why not? To what extent does our culture value family?

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  • What are the moral implications of the faction system? Is it inherently bad, and if not, how has it become twisted? Does the fact that it’s brought peace for over 100 years outweigh any negatives?

‘We believe in ordinary acts of bravery and the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.’ – Max (Mekhi Phifer), leader of the Dauntless faction.

  • What is good in the Dauntless manifesto? In what ways, and why has this ideal become twisted? How far does our society value the Dauntless ideal?
  • One of Four’s fears is having to kill an innocent, and he can only overcome it by not looking at them when he shoots. How does Tris use this technique to overcome the serum? What does this say about the human conscience? Is this idea consistently upheld in the deaths and potential deaths portrayed in the film?

‘It all works, everyone knows where they belong except for me.’ – Tris

  • What is appealing about the idea of belonging to a faction? What groups or labels give us a sense of belonging? Why do we yearn to belong somewhere? Can the yearning to belong ever be fully satisfied?

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  • Why is it so dangerous to be divergent in the society portrayed in the film? Are people like Tris and Four really a threat to the peace? What groups of people are we scared of in our society? How might we go about understanding these groups more fully?
  • How do we get to know Divergent’s characters more deeply through seeing their fears? How do the Dauntless go about overcoming fear, and does their method work? How does our society tell us to overcome fear, and does this method work? What are our biggest fears really rooted in, and can they ever be overcome?

‘Everything that makes up a human; thoughts, emotions, history, all wiped away by chemistry.’ – Jeanine

  • What do you make of Jeanine’s assessments of human nature and what makes up a human? To what extent is this really the root of the world’s problems? Are there any answers – other than ‘chemistry’, or a faction-based society – when it comes to overcoming the problems caused by human nature?

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