Problems with Characterization

So, a good friend of mine encouraged me to read the Divergent and Insurgent books by Veronica Roth. I was a bit skeptical at first, considering they were touted as being the next Hunger Games and I had only barely managed to enjoy the first of those, but I was game and borrowed the first one.

This is the story of a girl shoe-horned into an artificially restrictive human collective where the population is divided strictly along moralistic lines, depending on what you value most highly, be it courage, or truthfulness, or selflessness, or amicability, or intelligence. And each faction values these selected virtues to a ridiculous degree.

Therein lies the problem. The world building is fantastic, the characters are believable enough for a YA novel, but the society…as a psych major I cannot in good conscience recommend these books. They feel like one of those philosophy mind games that they call ‘experiments’ wherein humans are given choices that no sane human would ever choose between; options that aren’t even a possibility with human nature such as it is. I wasn’t going to pick up Insurgent after finishing Divergent but my friend insisted that it all made sense by the end of the second book and I gave in and read it.

It did not get better.

There is absolutely no way a human society would be able to function in such a fragmented way. It would crumble much faster than a single generation. Hitler’s Nazi Germany lasted for less than a generation, Roth should have taken that as a lesson in human tolerance to stupidity. So, regardless of how well it might actually be written, or how strong the characters an world building actually are, I just could not stomach one more moment in that distastefully false universe. Needless to say, I will not be picking up the third book, Allegiant, when it hits shelves next year.

2 thoughts on “Problems with Characterization

  1. I found your reference to Hitler interesting – your right – it only took him 15 years to manipulate/persuade/intimidate the opinions of 90 million people and another 7 to destroy it all.

    But what about Rome? Rome’s philosophy, ideals, and culture lasted for about a 1000 years…. 600BC to 400AD with the only major change being the introduction of Christianity. From noble to slave – each had a place in society, family, Glory, Honor, the right to conquer and rule others, etc..

    Hmmm – just a reflection on how people think. Every person has millions of opinions, bias’s, and predijuces that constantly change throughout their live’s, yet some ideas/belief last for gernerations.


    • Rome also changed and grew and then dissolved during that time and, even then, did not have the same kind of extremis of human morality that Divergent is dealing with. I also think that the fact that Hitler was living in a rapidly globalizing world had something to do with how fast his imposed morality disintegrated–people could see what was going on, on both sides of the issue. This is particularly pertinent to Divergent as each of the five groups can easily see the other groups and can even change loyalties as a teenager. I find it hard to believe that humans who are given any alternatives would tolerate being forced into such extreme societies for as long as this book purports.


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