At a time of the year when many seniors in high school are making their final decisions about college admissions, Divergent brings important question of identity and discernment to the movie screen.
Divergent is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a post-apocalyptic world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues: the selfless, the honest, the peaceful, the intelligent, and the brave. When kids reach a certain age, they are supposed to choose which of these factions they would like to join. To aid them in this discernment, a test is administered telling the young person which faction they are most suited for. The next day, at the sorting ceremony, (reminiscent to the sorting hat from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series) each young person is called and chooses.
The main character, Beatrice Prior (played by Shailene Woodley), struggles with this decision as the test did not give her a normal result. The test giver tells her that she tested for three of the factions and that she shouldn’t tell anyone, not even her parents because as a “divergent” she does not fit into any of the categories and is a threat to the order in this society.
Young adult fiction so often addresse the questions “Who am I?”, “How do I know who I am to become?” Beatrice’s experience of the test in Divergent is similar to the experience of many young people today who feel “defined” and restricted by their SAT scores, college or social status or whatever family, friends or teachers impose on them. Many find that there is not a simple way to discern their identity or life’s big questions. They desire to fit in and conform and yet, deep inside, each person has a sense that they have something unique to offer to society which a simple test is unable to unveil.
Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” Young people look to their parents and families first and foremost for their identity and definition. The themes in Divergent could be used by parents and teachers to encourage young people to think about who defines them and to value their own unique contributions to society.
A note to parents: Divergent is rated PG-13 due to “intense violence, and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.” Also, this film could have told the story better and with more effectiveness if it had better pacing and editing. As someone who did not read the book series, the movie was long and tried to fit in many more details than were necessary to convey the story.