Nostalgic Reads | Divergent: Transformation from One Choice


Spoiler Warning: This blog contains spoilers for Divergent by Veronica Roth, book 1 of the Divergent series.

Divergent by Veronica Roth was the first book that I ever picked up just for the fun of reading it. Until I was about twelve years-old, reading was a chore rather than a fun pastime, thanks to reading log assignments and my grandmother sitting in the kitchen with a kitchen timer set to twenty-five minutes each day. I had no passion for reading, and when my friend recommended Divergent to me and brought me her copy to borrow, I had no intention of reading it. It wasn’t until I finished my schoolwork early one day that I decided to open this book. Suddenly, one choice changed my perspective of reading. 

Beatrice Prior is a sixteen-year-old girl from the faction of Abnegation, one of the five factions that make up the futuristic, dystopian city of Chicago. On an appointed day, all sixteen-year-olds must take the aptitude test to help them decide which faction is the best fit to remain in for the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, this test does not make her decision easier and instead reveals her life is in danger, forcing her to keep the results a secret. Proceeding to the Choosing Ceremony, her decision is a shock to everyone, including herself. 

Beatrice takes her new life and secret into her own hands as her initiation into Dauntless, the faction of the brave, begins. Adopting a new name, Tris quickly learns which of her fellow initiates and mentors are her friends and which are her enemies. But surviving initiation isn’t her only challenge. As conflict begins to arise and threaten her society, Tris is more determined than ever to keep her secret hidden. Her secret might be the only thing to keep her loved ones safe… but it might also put them in danger. 

When I first read this book, I was captivated by the idea of being sorted into a faction. It was fun to deliberate which faction I would choose if I ever participated in the Choosing Ceremony. I found myself trying to sort everyone I knew into one of the five factions, and for the most part, I could easily sort them. It felt similar to a sorting ceremony at Hogwarts in Harry Potter, but the lines between the factions seemed more defined. The decision solely relied on one’s choice and which faction one chose impacted the rest of their life.

The power of choice is an important theme in this story. While the aptitude test may help guide a member of this dystopian society by showing them what virtue is most important to them, it is ultimately up to them to decide which faction they wish to live in. At sixteen years-old they are asked to make a decision that affects the rest of their life because there is no turning back after you have chosen your faction. 

Tris couldn’t have been a better character to follow on this journey, from taking the aptitude test to her intense initiation into Dauntless. While for her peers, and many other individuals in her society, this test and choice seems to be clear-cut (or so we are led to assume). For Tris, this test creates an identity crisis. She is not told directly who or what to be by this test; all she is told is that who she is―Divergent―is a danger. 

Being Divergent, or possessing multiple virtues of this society, is a danger because it allows a person to see a situation from many perspectives and gives them the ability to choose how they will react, rather than acting based on a faction’s manifesto. This is a problem because each faction plays a specific role in keeping this dystopian society balanced. So, when someone like Tris, a Divergent, is aware of more than just acting within her faction’s guidelines, the “perfect” system of their society and the idea that everyone has a specific place is threatened (which is the main conflict of the rest of the series).

We can see the virtues of each of the five factions in Tris (despite her test only proving three). She is brave like those of Dauntless to stand up against Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite faction and the antagonist of Divergent. She is kind like those of Amity for helping Four, a fellow member of Dauntless, and not judging him through his fear landscape. She is honest like those of Candor for speaking the truth to Caleb, her brother, about her suspicions about Erudite and Dauntless, even though it will put her in danger. She is selfless like those of Abnegation for trying to save her family when the Dauntless army attacks. She is intelligent like those of Erudite because she is aware enough in situations, like her fear landscape, to manipulate it and hide the fact that she is Divergent. She represents the society as a whole, is able to think like each faction, and choose when to act a certain way, so that her secret and those that she cares about remain safe. 

Tris’ choices and her uncertainty in them are easy for readers to relate to because, like Tris, we do not think in a single faceted way. We all possess a combination of virtues from the five factions, and even when decisions may be hard, we have to live with our choices, just like Tris does when she chooses Dauntless. She second-guesses herself and questions all of her choices. Ultimately, though, she shows how her choices transform her into the person that she chooses to be, rather than the person society dictates she should be.

The theme of choice and Tris’ role became more apparent to me while rereading this series than it did as a twelve-year-old, who made the choice to read this book. It was not a choice as dramatic as the Choosing Ceremony, but it definitely transformed my character and created an unexpected passion for reading. And while I will always wonder which faction I would choose to be a part of at the Choosing Ceremony, I think, like many others, my results of the aptitude test would be inconclusive. 

PPR Writer and Editor, Taylor Quinn