Imagine a world where everyone has a job based on their natural skills. Whatever your natural tendencies are, that’s what you use to contribute to society.
That’s the premise of Divergent, a popular YA dystopian book and a movie. (I saw the movie a few days ago but I’ve never read the book.)
In this world, individuals belong to one of 5, color-coded factions:
- Amity. The loving ones. These are the hippies, the earth-lovers. So they work in the fields, growing the food.
- Abnegation. The selfless ones. So they run the government and take care of the less fortunate (the faction-less).
- Candor. The honest ones. They speak the truth, whether you want to hear it or not, so they control the justice system.
- Erudite. The smart ones. They can be found in science and research, and any pursuits that require brain-y people.
- Dauntless. The brave ones. These are the soldiers/police, the defenders of society and order.
I won’t lie: I love color-coded categories. And on the surface, it’s not a bad system. Each individual is given a test when they come of age to determine where their natural tendencies lie, but they also have the option to choose the faction where they feel they belong. Seems fair.
Of course, once they choose, there’s no going back and they basically have to abandon their families if they’re in a different faction. So there’s that.
Then there are the divergent ones. These are people who, like the main character, don’t fall into one category. Their brains work in many ways so they’re difficult to categorize.
And when the whole society is based on the concept of peace through categorization, these people who are naturally resistant to categorization are a threat. And therefore should be killed. Ya know. Because what’s a YA dystopian without the main character being hunted by the government? (I think that would be called a teen romance.)
My husband and I were chatting about the categories after the movie. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “So. You’d definitely be an erudite.”
Him: “Well, I don’t know… what were the categories again?”
I gave him a rundown.
Him: “Oh. Yeah. I don’t really fit any of the others.”
Me: “It’s not a bad thing. We need smart, logical people. What about me – where do you think I’d fit?”
Him: “Hmm.” He pondered it for a moment. “Well… that’s tough. Because you fit several of them.”
Me: “Which means…”
Him: “Oh. You’d be divergent.”
I knew he’d come around to my conclusion eventually.
I think “divergent” is probably code for “identity issues.” Because honestly, sometimes I don’t know where I belong. I can’t say I’ve ever been a part of a group where I felt like I completely fit. Some have come close, but I’m always just a little stranger than the rest.
Some of that’s probably by choice, my way of ensuring I don’t lose my identity. On the other hand, I’m a people-pleasing chameleon. I naturally shift to become what other people want me to be. Ask people to describe me, and you’ll likely get a slew of opposing adjectives.
When I’m dealing with clients, I’m confident and outgoing. When I’m writing, I’m quiet and creative. When I’m doing tech-writing (a recent addition to my job), I’m organized and detail-oriented.
Call it a lingering side effect of my theatre background. I step into the traits the situation dictates – demanding or easy-going, right-brained or left-brained, quiet or bold, dominant or passive.
Does that mean I’d be “divergent”? Maybe. Who knows.
The good thing is, I don’t have to find out. Because I don’t live in a society with such strict categories. I have the right to define myself.
Even if that means defining myself as a confused chameleon.