Minty reads Divergent

I’m reading the book for the first time (after having seen the movie) and I have a lot of thoughts.
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It’s nice to see some more nuance to what Amity is about. IIRC Tris’ description of Amity in the movie is just “They’re always so happy” or something like that? In the book, Marcus’ speech at the choosing ceremony defines the factions in terms of the problems they’re against, instead of the things that characterize them, and he says Amity is against violence. Which seems a lot more like a coherent philosophical position that someone could have. It’s also mentioned that they work as counselors and artists (as well as working with the farms, I guess?) So that’s nice. The “happy, simple people working the land” thing they seem to be simplified into in the movie is not really a concept I like, seeing as how it’s been used to justify slavery.
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There’s about two sentences of “more nuance” about the factionless, but I still think it’s really fucking significant. Tris says that
“they live in poverty, doing the work no one else wants to do. They are janitors and construction workers and garbage collectors; they make fabric and operate trains and drive buses. In return for their work they get food and clothing, but, as my mother says, not enough of either.”
All we see of them in the movie (and so far in the book, too) is homeless, wandering beggars. But that’s not the whole story; it’s barely any of the story. People don’t turn into helpless wandering ghosts just because their community kicks them out, and the factionless are only a little bit kicked-out. Factionless people are, apparently, all around Triss on a regular basis, doing important work. She just doesn’t pay attention to them.
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At the beginning of the book, at least, there’s tension between Abnegation and Erudite, but Abnegation completely controls the government and has for a long time. Completely controls. The other factions can send representatives and speakers but only Abnegation’s leaders get to vote.
So. Abnegation members give charity to the factionless and get to count it as a moral, selfless act, when the factionless only need charity because the Abnegation-controlled central authority doesn’t pay them enough to live on. Isn’t that nice.
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It isn’t really accurate to use the word “pay” there. The city doesn’t really seem to use money. It seems more like everything is rationed and people get whatever they’re given, for the most part. (Triss says that in Abnegation, everybody gets a pile of identical-except-for-size new clothes every six months; in Dauntless, everybody has a certain number of points to “spend”, with some options to pick from.) Maybe things are different in the other factions, but it doesn’t sound like there’s a concept of being paid based on your job or how much work you do. So the factionless people’s situation isn’t the logical conclusion of a line of thought where teachers get paid more than guards get paid more than janitors. Someone just straight-up decided that people in factions deserve adequate clothing and food, and the factionless don’t. Abnegation volunteer to pave roads, and they get simple but perfectly adequate everything; factionless construction workers presumably do similar work but they don’t deserve enough to survive on.
Even if the average Abnegation really truly believes in selflessness, would refuse anything extra even if it were offered to them, and isn’t prideful about the things they do, the system they’re living in makes them completely hypocritical. Because the faction system runs on the assumption that being in a faction makes you infinitely more valuable that anyone who failed to get in. Being in Abnegation is a privileged position, it doesn’t matter how selfless you are about it.
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What the fuck is up with the population levels?
Follow me through this. Unless I’m confused about something…
— All the 16-year-olds in the city (whose parents are in factions) make their choices on the same day.
— There are 19 Dauntless initiates who actually make it into training (and three who fail on the way. One can’t catch the train, one can’t jump off, one jumps off and falls.)
— If the other factions have similar numbers of initiates, that’s about 100-115 total faction 16-year-olds in the city????
— I grew up in a smallish town, with one public high school. My graduating class was 286 people.
So you’re telling me that in Divergent, all of Chicago has maybe a third as many people as there are in my tiny hometown IRL.
— (Even if Dauntless does have fewer initiates than the other factions, there’s still a small enough number of 16-year-olds that you can gather them and most of their families in one room, and reading out their names doesn’t take all day. It could certainly be more than 100, but it can’t actually be enough for a good-sized city.)
And Dauntless is still willing to kick out half of their initiates.
It almost makes sense, if you think of the factionless as more than ghosts. They do necessary things, and you hardly have to feed them. If the city’s food supplies really are pretty tight, then they can’t afford to have too many people actually make it into the factions, because faction members expect to eat well.
Tris sees the city and the factions as one and the same, because she’s on the inside and she was raised to see it that way. But the factions might actually be a pretty small elite.
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There’s no way the factionless people don’t have relationships and families the way anyone would, despite their situation. (Barring the government sterilizing them or something, but no one really mentions an authority supervising the factionless people? Just that they do get given some food and supplies, and they work, and Abnegation hands out donations to them. As far as the story shows us, the people who flunk out of initiation are allowed to just wander off.) But any kids the factionless people have, don’t get the chance to choose anything.
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