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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About ‘Divergent’ But Were Afraid to Ask

What is Divergent
Illustration by ScreenCrush.com

It’s not easy to dive headlong into a brand new YA film franchise, even when it hits the big screen by way of a blockbuster production packed with stars (rising and solid alike) and giant action set pieces. What if you haven’t read the book it’s all based on? What if the trailers have done nothing to educate you on how this new franchise is different than that other new YA franchise?

When it comes to ‘Divergent,’ the Shailene Woodley-starring film version of author Veronica Roth’s bestselling book trilogy of the same name, there are plenty of questions that might prove valuable to answer before getting involved in the new series, just so you know what you’re working with. What’s a “Tris”? What’s a “divergent”? Where is this thing set? Will I like it? Should I read the books?

Having read the books and having seen the movie, with those questions – and many more – in mind, we’re here to attempt to tell you everything you need to know about the world of ‘Divergent’ (including that, yes, that word gets thrown around a lot).

Where is ‘Divergent’ set?

Chicago. Well, future Chicago. In ‘Divergent,’ the city of Chicago has been decimated by an unknown force (and, no, not the Polar Vortex), one powerful enough that it left the metropolis in ruins and forced its tiny population into a new way of living. Whatever happened to the city (and maybe the rest of the world) is left purposely open-ended. There is talk of a “war” and of “founders,” but Roth’s book keep things purposely secret – mainly, because she blows all that stuff out in major fashion in the following two books.

When is ‘Divergent’ set?

Future. A muddy, unclear future. It’s not overly “futuristic,” however, though there have been big advances in medicine and weaponry. And yet, Chicago is still in disarray and most buildings are empty and dilapidated. There’s certainly not been enough time since the “war” to re-populate appropriately.

Who lives in this new Chicago?

Every citizen in ‘Divergent’ is divided up into five very different factions that are each defined by a single trait that influences every part of their lives – from how they dress to where they live to what they do to who they can get romantic with. There’s the selfless, the brave, the peaceful, the honest, and the smart – and, for some reason, this lifestyle seems to work for the Chicagoland citizens. No one thinks to question the rules, why they exist, and who even made them. This won’t be a problem, right? Wrong.

What are the different factions?

There’s Abnegation, the selfless. They are in charge of the government, because they are perceived to not have any self-interest. They wear gray clothes and live a very simple life. Then there’s Dauntless, the fearless. They are in charge of security – basically, they’re the army. They love tattoos, piercings, and just being wild (lots of running and “wooing” from these guys). Obviously, they wear black. Elsewhere the Erudite (blue) are the intelligent and are in responsible for making and teaching things, the Candor (black and white) are all about honesty and are usually lawyers, and the Amity (orange and yellow) are essentially hippies and are responsible for growing food for the city. There’s some flexibility in professions – some Erudite are scientists, while others are teachers – but they generally fall in line with their faction.

Are there people who fit into more than one faction?

Yes, and they’re…Divergent! They’re also dangerous, as we soon learn, but just why that is so is obscured for a long time. Basically, in a society where everyone is divided up, people who can’t be divided up are a threat.

Are there people not in factions?

The factionless! They are the homeless members of society, cast out and often cared for by the Abnegation.

How are you divided into a faction?

Well, you’re born intoit. However, at age sixteen, every person from each faction must take an aptitude test to determine which faction they should actually be in – and if they don’t fit in where they were born, it’s up to them to make a switch that will change their lives forever on “Choosing Day.” If you switch factions, you can never see your family again. The motto of the society is “faction before blood,” and they truly believe that. Every faction lives far from the others, and there is little – if any – mixing between them.

Who is Shailene Woodley playing?

Born into the selfless Abnegation faction, young Beatrice Prior – who goes by the snazzy nickname “Tris” – has never quite fit into her place in society, and she’s about to find out why. When Tris takes her aptitude test, she discovers she’s divergent. She has a knack for the sort of traits you’d find in Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. Uh oh.

Who is the bad guy?

Really, it’s the system. But, until we understand more about the system, it’s Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet, in the movie), leader of the Erudite. Desperate for control, Jeanine is already trying to wrest the government away from the Abnegation before the faction is rocked by the departure of both Tris and her brother Caleb for new factions on Choosing Day.

Is there a romance?

Obviously. Once Tris switches factions – spoiler: she goes for Dauntless – she eventually falls for her studly instructor, Four, who takes a shine to her early.

Is it violent?

Tris goes through a lot of training on her way to becoming a Dauntless solider, and there’s plenty of fighting sequences. There’s also a big battle at the end of the book, which pushes it forward into some emotional territory that helps raise interest for the next book, ‘Insurgent.’

Who will like ‘Divergent’?

People who prefer ‘The Hunger Games’ over ‘Twilight.’

Should I read the books?

Sure! They’re a lot of fun, even if the rewards steadily diminish over time (the final book in the series, ‘Allegiant,’ is a big letdown).

Is the movie any good?

Yeah. As we said in our review, “‘Divergent’ should both thrill fans and (hopefully) excite newcomers who will leave the theater wanting to know where its open ending travels next.

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