I went to watch Divergent (2014) from director Neil Burger the other day, and I’m still surprised at the parallels I made between the movie and Plato’s The Republic. As soon as the protagonist, Beatrice Prior, mentioned factions, my mind immediately went to the idea of specialization, which, according to Plato speaking through Socrates’ character in The Republic, is when people strictly adheres to their place in society. The factions in Divergent, known as Erudite, Amity, Candor, Abnegation, and Dauntless – I think I’ll start using these words more in everyday conversations now – made me think of the three classes of people as discussed by Plato to be Producers, Auxiliaries, and Guardians.
The factions in Divergent can be summarized by Plato’s classes of people in his perfect society (i.e. Producers, Auxiliaries, and Guardians): Amity and Abnegation as Producers, Erudite and Candor as Auxiliaries, and Dauntless as Guardians. However, Abnegation could also be Guardians because they were ultimately the ruling faction. What Plato failed to discuss was how Auxiliaries could want to overthrow the upper class, which, in the case of Divergent, would be Erudite wanting to overthrow Abnegation. (I could also include allusions to George Orwell’s 1984 and the dystopian society it describes, especially in regards to how its character, Emmanual Goldstein, talks about the classes as High, Middle, and Low, where the Middle would want to overthrow the High by lying to the Low; but that would make Dauntless the Low class, or the Producers, because of how Erudite used them as their soldiers by brainwashing them.This requires close reading to understand.) Regardless of how the factions are organized into classes of people, the audience, if they know their ancient Greek literature, can see Plato’s idea of a perfect society through specialization be tested.
This isn’t a review of Divergent (2014) or Plato’s The Republic, or even Orwell’s 1984. This is a short analysis of how the themes in all of these works connect and make each other a little more meaningful. If you want my take on it, read all of them (Divergent the book is by Victoria Roth) in conjunction with each other. They all seem to test the ideals of each as presented by the protagonists and even the antagonists. Plato’s The Republic was published centuries ago – and Orwell’s 1984 was published decades ago – but we can still see the themes in The Republic, including justice and specialization, present in modern literature.