“The inspiration for the novel and the factions were based on my views about human nature, and that virtue as an end in itself may not really be a good thing,” said Veronica Roth of her debut novel, Divergent, in a recent interview.
Virtue as an end in itself may not really be a good thing. The author suggests that by trying to be “good,” whatever “good” may mean to one group or another, we lose something of ourselves. Does “doing the right thing”--if it’s defined by someone else or society at large--mean that we deny who we are? Beatrice Prior, the narrator of Divergent, feels torn when she must choose between the five factions of her society. She knows that if she does not choose her family’s faction, the selfless Abnegation, she will have to leave them behind, possibly forever. But from the very first, Veronica Roth shows us how drawn her heroine is to Dauntless, the faction that houses the soldiers that guard the borders of their society. They are daring, gutsy, even reckless at times.
One of my favorite moments in the book is when Tris realizes that bravery and selflessness are “often… the same thing.” It’s a great way to get teens thinking about what constitutes selflessness and bravery, and how we decide which actions are true to us, and which ones betray our sense of who we are. But she also taps into the idea that there are shades of gray. In that same interview, Roth talked about how we often single out cliques in high school as being damaging to kids, but what about in adulthood? Do we ever really graduate from labeling people? Is there really such a thing as a “good girl” and a “bad girl”? A “stoner” or “jock” or “geek”? Doesn’t everyone have more to him or her than one overriding quality?
Roth also invites readers to look more deeply at their families, friends and classmates. To see that there’s more to them. None of us fits easily into boxes. Most of us are, in fact, divergent. Does that make us “dangerous”? Perhaps only to the people who prefer neat categories.