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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Little Boxes


Plot Overview

“Divergent” opens with a vista view of a grass field, slowly panning to a beached boat, then to a ginormous fence enclosing a city named Chicago, then inside the city to gutted buildings, machinery in motion, and pedes­trians going about their business. (A title tells us it's “Based on the novel by Veronica Roth.”) A character narrator, Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), tells us that after the war 100 years ago, “Our founders built the wall to keep us safe.”

She then goes on to describe five factions that all of their society belong to—not counting the factionless (read homeless)—, reminis­cent of the folk song “Little Boxes” in which the houses are “all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.” They just dress in different colors. She assures us, though, that “It all works. Every­one knows where they belong … except for me.”

Not a problem. At age 16 she takes a standard aptitude test that will tell her where she belongs (“Trust the test.”) Hey, no pressure, because “95% get the faction they want,” and she's free to choose any of the five factions irres­pec­tive of the test results. How­ever, “Once the choice has been made, there will be no change permitted.” What a relief! because she doesn't know what she wants.

The test administrator Tori (Maggie Q) has some bad news: “The test didn't work on you.” She advises her not to trust any­one to tell the result to (“You have to trust your­self.”) Tori fudges a phony result, then Beatrice transfers out­side her family cast—it's allowed—at the ceremony, and picks a new name Tris. Tori clues her in on more bad news, that she's perceived as a threat: “If you don't fit into a category, they can't control you.” Her friends comment on the goon squads about: “I bet they're hunting divergents.” Her boy­friend who goes by Four (Theo James) after admin­is­tering a qualifying test, adds to the bad news: “You don't conform. Your mind works in a million ways. They're afraid of you.”

Not only does Tris have to try to remain in the closet amidst waves of persecution, but there's a revolution brewing, and her family is in the cross hairs, her family that she's now separated from (“faction over blood.”) She is pretty much forced to “exercise independent will” against a “system [that] removes the threat.”


The opening scene of a derelict beached boat, a towering wall, and a hundred year gap from an unspecified disaster (“war”) is suggestive of Noah's ark and the Tower of Babel. Researcher Bodie Hodge tells us, “Arch­bishop Ussher places Babel at 2242 B.C. and the Flood at 2348 B.C., allowing about 106 years from the Flood to Babel” (236). Let's try to piece together the parallels.

Arthur Frederick Ide quotes the (non-canonical, but it was a contender) book of Enoch (Noah's great grand­father): “My Son Methuselah took for his son Lamech a wife, and she became pregnant by him and bore a son. And his body was white like snow and red like the flower of a rose, and the hair of his head white like wool … and his eyes beautiful. … Call his name Noah” (66–7). In Noah's days men were very wicked, Gen. 6:5. Noah preached to them, 2Pet. 2:5, of a coming flood, but he was mocked, and for his albinoism too, I should imagine.

After the Flood there was an incident, Gen. 9:20-22, where Noah got drunk and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who mocked him “whose form and appearance are not like the image of man” (Dr. Ide 67). Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had violated him in some way, Gen. 9:24, we assume by marking his invitingly white body to assert his dominance, as Noah's curse puts Ham's sons, down to the youngest Canaan in a position of extreme servitude, Gen. 9:25. (For context recall that God marked the sky, Gen. 9:12-13, with His promise.) Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah.

Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

     Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

     Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

Hodge confirms the general knowledge that “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’) … and Canaan the youngest” (62). In the movie “Noah,” Noah pegs Ham's character as, “Ham is covetous.” It's no great wonder that the uppity one is given the position of servitude. In this movie “Divergent” the ones with the opposite characteristic, the Abnegation faction practicing self-denial, are the government leaders. Its Latin root word negare, meaning to deny, is a pun (homo­phone) on nigger or Negro which are derived from the Latin niger meaning black, as used in Acts 13:1. So to over­throw the order of the self-deniers in govt. is the obverse of liberating the uppity ones from servitude, but the former is more politically correct and preserves the artistic message of this movie. Those in the Abnegation faction are referred to in this movie as “stiffs”, the opposite of how Blacks see them­selves move. Of curious note is the way the Abnegation faction practices but brief glances in a mirror, reminiscent in attitude of Shem and Japheth trying to keep their old man covered.

The other four “Divergent” factions can be found in the Noah story as follows: “Cush fathered … Nimrod (trans­lates as ‘valiant’ and ‘strong’), king of Babel who reputedly shot an arrow into the heaven and so angered the god(s) that those constructing his tower were unable to under­stand one another” (Dr. Ide 62). Tris joined the Dauntless (brave) faction, the protectors, and ends up shooting a dart at a master manipu­lator to throw a monkey wrench into their works. “Shem was the original Mesopotamian omniscient and all-seeing sun god Shamash who fathered sons Kittum (which trans­lates as ‘truth’; Kittum is the origin of Shem's son Kittim) and Mesharum (which trans­lates as ‘justice’; he was the original ‘Aram’ that Genesis declares to be the off­spring of Shem)” (Dr. Ide 63–4). These two corres­pond to “Divergent” factions Erudite (intel­ligent) and Candor (honest) respec­tively, their intelli­gentsia and judges. In the movie “Noah,” Noah describes, “Japheth lives only to please.” He corresponds to the Amity (peaceful) faction who are the farmers.

I'm just connecting some obvious dots. The movie doesn't say it was a race war they survived per se, but we don't see any blacks in the crowds in future Chicago, so draw your own conclusions.

Production Values

“Divergent” (2014) was directed by Neil Burger and was written by Evan Daugherty & Vanessa Taylor, based on the book Divergent by Veronica Roth. It stars Shailene Woodley and co-stars Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz, Tony Goldwyn and Maggie Q. The cast here is overall solid, with Shailene Woodley as Tris being the particular stand­out. There are lots of close­ups of her face, which add to the movie's impact. Theo James did well in the guy/love interest role. Beatrice's mother Natalie was played by Ashley Judd who maintains the sense of mystery about her she had in the movie “Flypaper.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) rated it PG–13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality. It was 139 minutes long. It seems geared to teen­agers.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I found “Divergent” stimulating in the way it got me thinking about society, I could relate to the characters well enough, although they might appeal more to those in a younger age bracket, and it didn't seem too long. The buildups were slow and the action non-jarring. The drug-induced testing cum dream sequences gave it a proper sci-fi feel. Their society seemed stagnated and I hoped some­thing would pull them out of it. If this kind of material appeals to you, by all means see it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed fun. Suitability for Children: Suitable for some children 13+ years. Special effects: Absolutely amazing special effects! Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A suspenseful moments in the end part. Overall product rating: Four stars out of Five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. As quoted.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.