Divergent: A Mirror to the Soul

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My teenage daughter and I have read several books together in recent years. A while back, I handed her a copy of Divergent by Veronica Roth. We both enjoy books with a fantastical element, dystopian world views, and strong young women. My child believes that women are naturally strong, insightful, and independent. I am always thrilled to find books, movies, and television shows that encourage this belief.

A great deal has been written about this trilogy (the last book was published in recent weeks), and the first movie made a big splash over the weekend, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. Ava and I were part of the throngs who filled the theater seats Friday night. The basic story concerns a futuristic Chicago where society is divided into 5 factions – Abnegation (focused on serving others), Candor (valuing honesty above all else), Amity (where peace and happiness prevail), Erudite (the scholars who believe knowledge is most important), and Dauntless (the fearless, who are the soldiers of the society). At age 16, each member must choose a faction in which to live. Protagonist Tris Prior comes from Abnegation, but learns that she is actually Divergent – a hidden group who belong in more than one faction. The Divergent are a threat to society, and must cover who they are in order to survive. Tris chooses Dauntless, one of the factions for which she is most suited. As with many dystopian stories, there are people in power who abuse that responsibility, and seek to harm society. Tris is the young woman who fights for justice.

Ava and I had a good discussion about the changes from page to screen. They always necessarily exist, and sometimes those alterations are effective, and sometimes not. For the most part, I felt like the movie did a good job in this area. The differences maintained the essential story and the focus Roth created in her writing. One change in the movie actually struck me as far more effective than in the book.

Both the book and the movie begin with Tris and her mother, who is cutting her daughter’s dishwater hair in preparation for the choosing ceremony. Abnegation members keep mirrors hidden, only using them for special occasions, and then only briefly. They believe vanity is a trait which inhibits helping others. That, in and of itself, makes a vast statement in the age of the selfie.

Yet, the movie beautifully incorporates Tris’ reflection as an important symbol. Throughout the film, when Tris sees her own face (in a mirror, water, the back of a spoon), that is when she sees inside herself. She comes to know herself more fully, understands her capabilities, strengths, potential and power. She sees a mirror to her soul. This self-realization enables her to stand up against the powers that be, and to fight for the victims of this society.

God’s light shines in each one of us. Too many young women doubt their own intuition, what their soul is telling them. Instead of looking at themselves, they look to others (society, the media, boyfriends, fathers, the world of entertainment) to tell them who they are and how they can or should function in society. Tris is an example of trusting that light of God in the soul of each young woman, and knowing that great things will happen when they do.

Read the books. Go see the movie. Take a girl with you, and then have a good conversation.

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