What Divergent: Allegiant Can Teach Us About Authenticity


Shailene Woodley Divergent Allegiant

With the movie adaptation of
Divergent: Allegiant now in theaters, I thought I’d re-post this blog I wrote about the book a while back. Enjoy! 

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read Divergent: Allegiant, or you’re waiting for the movie, you might not want to read this just yet. Major spoilers ahead –as in soylent green is people level spoilers.

Earlier this week, I finished reading Divergent: Allegiant, the third and final book in the Divergent series, written by Veronica Roth. I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi, especially when there’s a strong female lead. And by that, I don’t just mean a chick who knows how to kick ass and take names, although that’s pretty sweet to watch, too.  My favorite kind of strong female lead is one who can be brave and save the day, but who is also vulnerable and human. Who has to face and process her emotions and experiences, and who grows as a result.

Divergent’s Tris Prior (played in the films by Shailene Woodley) definitely meets those criteria, which is why I was totally devastated by her death. My first reaction was something along the lines of, “Sonofabitch!! This is just Roth trying to make the story seem more profound by killing off the main character. Screw that!”


But after allowing myself enough time to mourn – and reflect on Tris’s character arch – I realized, Tris had to die. And this has some pretty meaningful parallels to the way things work in real life.

For the uninitiated, I’ll give a little background about Tris’s story. She lives in a futuristic Chicago, where the population is divided into groups called “Factions,” each of which structures life according to the particular character trait it deems most valuable. Tris is born into a faction called Abnegation, which prizes selflessness above all else.  But instead of helping her to grow into someone who is generous and giving, her life with Abnegation makes her feel stifled, as if everyone else’s needs are always put ahead of her own, and she can’t live the life of her choosing.

So at 16, she leaves Abnegation and joins a faction called Dauntless, which values bravery. But at first, her understanding of the faction’s values is a little unbalanced. She uses Dauntless’s penchant for boldness and daring as an excuse to carelessly risk her own life, because she’s going through a period where she doesn’t value herself as highly as she should. She doesn’t have a healthy sense of self-worth.  But, as she learns to stand up and speak truth to power, she proves to herself and pretty much everyone else what a smart, tough badass she is, and her confidence grows. She learns to believe in herself, and realizes how precious life really is.

That’s why it’s so significant when, near the end of Allegiant, she risks her life, and ultimately dies, to save her brother. She genuinely wants to live at this point, so it is truly a selfless act. It also demonstrates real bravery, not just careless bravado. She has really learned her major soul lessons – what it means to have self-confidence, to be brave, and to be generous. And if she’s going to live authentically, she has to rise to the occasion. To allow her brother to risk his life instead of her would not be in alignment with the wiser, more authentic person she has become. To be true to herself, she has to take the risk.

In an interview with MTV, Roth said that Tris’s decision to sacrifice herself was intended to show that she had finally come to understand “what it means to make a grown-up decision…”

And really, what’s more grown-up than choosing a path based on what you really believe, and know to be right? Except for mimosas – I mean, only a real adult can booze it up before noon and make it look classy.

This lesson is, of course, completely true in the real world, as well. I think so often, our intuition – our inner wisdom – tells us which decisions are right for our lives and which are not. But sometimes, we choose to ignore that because we’re afraid of the consequences of living authentically. Most of us aren’t actually risking our lives like Tris on a regular basis. But there are very real things for us to be scared of when it comes to taking the leap and living authentically. Maybe we worry about what other people will think, or we worry about the financial impact that changing course might have on our lives. Whatever it may be, too often, our fears hold us back from living our fullest, most genuine lives.

The truth is, being authentic – really taking ownership of your life – isn’t easy. It requires us to take risks, and to have faith that if we’re true to ourselves, things will work out for the best. It also means that we have to accept that maybe things won’t work out the way we want them to, but making the authentic choice is still better than ignoring who we really are and taking the safer road.

Tris had to accept that putting her life on the line could lead to her death. But if she didn’t do it, she’d be stuck living her life as a smaller, more fearful version of herself.

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