Dystopian fiction has never become more relevant than it is today. With humans plundering the earth’s resources, wars at every corner you look, dire poverty, exploitation, a hoarding of wealth and welfare, massive loss of habitat for both animals and humans it does seem like the world is at a brink of an end. While we are not the first generation to feel like the world is about to end todays’ crisis is unique. It is not civilization specific or religiously informed, it is in a sense objective and global. The threats are more sinister, varied and complex, everything that has come before simply pails in comparison. Looking at dystopian fiction is in a sense looking at ourselves, as individuals and societies at our worst; a ton of them are post-apocalyptic and post-earth, they are echoes of the present. At the same time they recognize the world is thirsty for hope and they provide that. They show us a world that is supposedly worse than ours and how it got better, but what is even more striking is how similar those future worlds are to our today. Dystopian fiction isn’t escapist, it is boldly confrontational. One of the most important works to join this list of truly brave fiction is the Divergent Trilogy.
The Divergent Trilogy has enjoyed almost a second tier reverence from the likes of The Hunger Games which have gained a lot more popularity, following and, quite frankly, a beautiful adaption of the novels on the screen. The Divergent Trilogy is even subject of ridicule from it’s atrocious movie adaptations, that are so far removed from the novels that it quite unfair.The entire trilogy therefore, remains largely misrepresented to the bulk of the population. I won’t go into the details of the story here, but I will at least try to show why Divergent Trilogy is perhaps one of the most important, if not the important, work of dystopian fiction to come out this century.
In an age of moral relativism the Divergent Trilogy seeks to deal with questions that have long concerned mankind. And it does so without being dautingly philosophical, in a way that is accessible, clever and insightful. What does it mean to be virtuous, to be a good person? Is there such a thing as pure altruism? What does any of our moral values mean, where does one end and when does the other begin? Are they wholesome? Do they don’t contradict each other? Are some more important than onters? Which ones are more important than others? If so, why? Which is the most important? Are they all the same or equal? If so, what problems does that create? I think we would agree these are interesting, engaging and important questions. And the books take a knock at these issues in ways that are subtle in some areas, in some areas with a clever plot and passages. It is not alienating or in your face, but instead feels more personal and human, not as abstract and devoid of heat as discussions of these issues tend to become.
You’d think that is enough but the trilogy ventures into common territory in dsytopian fiction, politics and social justice. It does so without leaving out history or downplaying it in discussions of politics, war and social justice.It says history is always relevant. Context is important and history provides that. Alluding to issues of racism, classism, war and terrorism. Emphasizing the importance of history, in understanding, discussing and dealing with these issues in ways that are accurately matched to their reality.Also to question. Advising, without being too obvious, to feed your curiousity, don’t take things at face value, don’t be quick to judge. Evaluate,inform yourself about the situation, and challenge your preconceived notions.
The Trilogy goes on to ask if war is ever for the better? Why should some people be treated differently than others? Should we all be equal? Are we inherently equal? If not, what does fairness look like in that picture? What should it look like? Is an act of terrorism ever justified or necessary? How should societies be strcutured and by what criteria? What are the causes of social and political issues like poverty, unrest, wars, acts of terror and insurgencies? Are all of these inherently evil? Can they be avoided? What do they say about human nature?
It does make you think, without preaching.
And when all this has been illustrated, the trilogy leaves us with age old arguments and questions to think about. Is man inherently evil or good? Are some people just bad people? If so, why? To what extent are we culpable? What moral responsibility do we bear,and what is the limit of that responsibility? Should there even be a limit?
I am left thoroughly impressed by the trilogy.It does all of this with a powerful story and characters that live and breathe. The character development in these novels is truly remarkable. Kudos to Veronica Roth. And thanks for blessing us with a truly important piece of literature.
Thanks for reading.
“A faded memory of what used to be
The burden and the noose
Just cut me loose
It can’t be mistaken, the spirit is vacant
When hope for tomorrow is nowhere in view.” – Killswitch Engage ‘Cut Me Loose’