I’ve read a few reviews calling Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ as the next ‘Hunger Games’ and while both are about a female teenager living in a distant dystopia - that’s where the similarities end. Yes, Divergent will appeal to those who loved the Hunger Games series and comparisons will no doubt be made….as I’m about to do. But I’ve said in recent post that I’ll always compare a dystopian novel to the Hunger Games, because for me, that is the bench mark. If you want a review…go to Amazon. Today, I’ll discuss the settings, the heroines and the plot.
Because Divergent has yet to be released in the States, here is the obligatory SPOILER WARNING - you have been warned.
This is a major difference between THG and Divergent. Yes, they are both set in a futuristic dystopia, but the THG is set in a world where Katniss lives in an oppressed society where her district and others work to provide for a privileged few (the Capitol). The whole of the country is ruled by a cruel and sadistic dictator (President Snow). In essence, the world she lives in is shit and she has to fight to survive it.
Divergent though, is set in a utopia. There is no war or conflict and everyone gets along because the are divided into factions who all cooperate to the betterment of society. Their lives have meaning and purpose because each faction believes a particular human personality trait is responsible for human conflict.
Amity - believes it to be aggression. So their faction sounds like a bunch of peace loving hippies - kidding. No, their purpose in society is to provide counsellors and caretakers.
Erudite - believes it to be ignorance. So their faction values knowledge. Their purpose in society to to provide intelligent teachers and researchers.
Candor - believes it to be duplicity. So their faction values truth with no compromises. Their purpose is to create the laws that govern society.
Abnegation - believes it to be selfishness. So their faction values selflessness. Their purpose in society is to provide selfless leaders in government.
Dauntless - believes it to be cowardice. So their faction values courage and bravery. Their purpose in society is to provide protection from threats within and beyond their borders.
These 5 factions have worked together to create this utopia. However, Tris’ world starts to fall apart when she discovers that she can’t be categorised into just one of these factions and that there are some leaders who have a thirst for more power and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
Have you ever wondered what society was like before President Snow and the Capitol was in power in THG? Well, think of Divergent as a prequel to THG, but not literally. Tris lives a perfect world that’s about to fall apart. Katniss lives in world that is already broken.
Katniss - olive skinned, brown eyes, brown hair, small stature
Tris - pale skinned, blonde hair, small stature
Apart from physical differences, Katniss and Tris are very different protaganists. Now it’s a little bit like comparing apples and oranges, because Katniss has already developed over 3 books and Tris has only had one book to make an impression, but I’ll try to remember what Katniss was like just in the Hunger Games and not the subsequent books.
Katniss in THG is a bitch, there no denying it. But the reason she’s a bitch is because she does everything she can to survive in her shitty world. She loves her sister, but resents her mother. Her best friend is a hot hunter, but she can’t contemplate a future together because it’s too depressing. Aside from her family, Katniss creates an alliance with people before she forms a relationship with them. She asks herself ‘what do I need from this person and what do they need from me?’ Case in point:
Gale - when she first meets him she wants to learn how to set traps and snares in exchange for teaching him how to use a bow and arrow. Then the relationship forms.
Haymitch - she needs him to survive the hunger games, because she knows she won’t be able to win without sponsers. He is her gateway to this, so in exchange, she does what he tells her to do. Then she slowly starts to trust him.
Peeta - by following Haymitch’s instructions she needs Peeta to gain favouritism amongst the Capitol crowd. Popularity = Sponsors = Gifts = Survival in the games. That’s her initial motivation, then her feelings start to grow for him.
See the pattern? Initially, Katniss uses people, just as they use her, because her motivation is to survive and it takes awhile and usually some kind of act for her to trust them.
Tris on the other hand is more of a typical teenage girl. She says she doesn’t really have any friends in her faction because everyone is supposed to be nice to each other. When she switches to the Dauntless faction, she quickly forms a friendship with Christina, another initiate, not because she has to (as Katniss does), but because she wants to. She sees the value in having a support system, even though they are competing for spots within the faction. They enjoy each other’s company and help each other out - as friends do. This is continued when Tris becomes friends with Will and Al. They form a little group which helps Tris when she is targeted by other initiates and she genuinely struggles with keeping her Divergent secret from them.
This is the difference - when first meeting someone, Tris sees the best in people (like Eric - he only wants the best for his faction), Katniss sees the worse in people (‘when are they gonna screw me over?’).
When it comes to the opposite sex, both are inexperienced especially at reading and understanding emotions. Tris’ responses are more like a typical teen - the fluttering and increased heartbeat when she and Four (Tobias) make contact, and the fact that she can’t see why Tobias likes her. She doesn’t think she anything special or even pretty - so why has he singled her out? Her fear of having sex with him…all typical teenage responses.
Katniss on the other hand is just in survival mode in THG. Only out of strategy does she agree to a fake romance with Peeta so she is constantly thinking about his betrayal. Even in the famous cave scene, when it feels so right to her, does she question his intentions. She ignores her heart because her head only knows one thing - do whatever it takes to survive. So to even entertain anything else…like feelings, is just too much for her.
So as for the opposite sex, both ladies are clueless - which is an endearing trait and one that I like. I mean, no one really wants a slutty herione….these are young adult novels - it wouldn’t be sending the right message would it?
One other difference I’d like to highlight is the way they both make decisions. Katniss makes decisions on instinct and then deals with the consequences, whether it be right or wrong. The only time she actually thinks through a decision is in Mockingjay - when she votes for another hunger games (I like to think of this scene as her defining moment - when she goes from being a player in the games to a game maker). Tris actually thinks about what she should/could do and the possible outcomes - like when she’s thinking of a way to defeat Molly or when she’s in the fear simulations. The only time she doesn’t think things through is when she lets her emotions overcome her judgement and she lashes out - but this is a believable teenager.
The plot of the hunger games is very much driven by the games itself. It is a circumstance out of the control of Katniss - she makes decisions based on the situation that she is in. The plot of Divergent is driven by the choices made by Tris - her choice to choose Dauntless, her choice to jump first, her choice to trust her friends, her choice to lie or to choose when to be selfless and when to be selfish. So Divergent is very much like a ‘Choose your own adventure’ for Tris. THG is situation driven.