With Divergent finally in theaters this weekend, a whole new audience is about to be introduced to a future society broken up into five unique factions. Based on the first book in Veronica Roth's trilogy, the movie tells the story of a girl who doesn't fit neatly into any of those factions, and what it means for her to choose her future. If that all sounds kind of dense, don't worry, we've got you covered. Skim through this brief primer on the world of Divergent and you'll totally understand what's going on when you sit down to watch the movie.
Divergent takes place in a not-so-distant dystopian future where the world we know is gone. The remnants of society have been broken up into five factions and live together in the ruins of Chicago. A giant fence now surrounds the entire city, and what's outside that fence (besides farms) is a mystery.
Every year, the city's 16-year-olds take part in a universal rite of passage where they take a special aptitude test that helps them choose their factions. If someone chooses a faction besides the one they grew up in, it means leaving behind their families forever. As the city's leaders are fond of saying, it's "Faction before blood."
Played by Shailene Woodley, Beatrice is a 16-year-old girl whose Choosing Day is fast approaching. She's grown up with her family in Abnegation, a faction devoted to self sacrifice and helping others, but she's not totally sure it's a great fit. The spirit of Abnegation comes so easily to her twin brother, Caleb, but she wants something more.
The Five Factions
Members of Abnegation believe in devoting their lives to helping others. It means foregoing personal pleasures, eating plain food, dressing in plain clothes, and never looking in a mirror because it would encourage vanity. Abnegation makes up the society's government since its members are considered the least susceptible to corruption. Beatrice grew up in Abnegation, but it's left her feeling constrained.
Fearless warriors who value strength and honor, the Dauntless are combat experts who travel the ruins of Chicago on its still functioning 'L' trains. But the trains never stop. The Dauntless just jump on and off them wherever they need to. Because they're fearless. The Dauntless handle all the city's security. Beatrice ultimately declares herself Dauntless at the beginning of the story, renaming herself Tris in the process.
The Erudite faction is made up of society's brightest minds. Erudites value logic and intelligence above all else, devouring books, and pouring themselves into experiments and studies that yield ever greater advances in science and technology. The Erudites are lead by Jeanine (played by Kate Winslet in the movie). She's become fed up with Abnegation controlling the government and has spear-headed an anti-Abnegation movement by spreading propaganda against the faction.
Devoted to always telling the truth, even when it hurts, you have to be brave to make friends with a Candor. The faction's members believe society's previous collapse was brought on by lies, and even the smallest deception is a form of evil that must be eradicated. Valuing sincerity and the ability to argue, Candors keep no secrets, and find the act of deception vile. They make up society's lawyers and policy makers.
Why can't we all just get along? Amity is made up of people who believe we must if human life is to continue to thrive. Committed to the power of friendship and cooperation, Amity appreciates humanity as a vast palette with each color contributing to the big picture. Its members live on farms outside the city's fence, producing food for everyone within.
At the age of 16, an aptitude test (developed by the Erudite) is administered to determine which faction would be a young person's best fit. When Tris takes her test, it finds she doesn't fit neatly into any of the factions, deeming her "Divergent." Divergence is seen by some to be inherently dangerous since it introduces an element of unpredictability or chaos into society's highly segmented system.
The Hot Guy
When Tris chooses a new faction she's soon introduced to a Dauntless trainer named Four. Played by Theo James in the movie, director Neil Burger says they launched a worldwide search for an actor who could play the part and create a believable chemistry with Shailene Woodley.
The Evil Genius
Kate Winslet plays Jeanine Matthews, the Erudite leader who believes Abnegation is running the government into the ground. She's started an anti-Abnegation movement through her faction, and there might be even more to the brilliant leader.
At just 25, Veronica Roth has already finished her Divergent trilogy. To put things in perspective the author is just three years older than Shailene Woodley, and still four years younger than Theo James. With her short-cropped hair and tall, slim frame, no one would bat an eye at encountering her alongside the rest of the young cast in the movie. (In fact she did film a cameo.) She sold Divergent just four days after mailing off the story, which was initially inspired by her studies in psychology. “I was in Psych learning about exposure therapy,” she told New York magazine. “I wondered what would happen if there was a group of people who tried to create fearlessness using the technique.”