The Giver by Lois Lowry and Divergent by Veronica Roth are both dystopian novels that depict a society that seems perfect at first, but really is an illusion of perfection. A dystopia is a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. The Giver follows the life of a boy named Jonas as he lives in a perfectly organized community where the Council of Elders dictate a person’s life and the idea of “sameness” is valued. He is specifically chosen as the next “Receiver of Memory”, a position given to a person who is capable of handling the memories of life that the community had abandoned in order to avoid pain and conflict. Through his training with The Giver, the one who transmits the memories to the next Receiver, he begins to discover knowledge of a better life full of color, choices, and emotions. Divergent portrays the world that Beatrice Prior lives in, a society where an individual’s life is defined by the faction they choose. Beatrice finds out that she is a Divergent, someone who possesses multiple virtues, and does not belong in any of the five factions where only one virtue is honored in each. While hiding this fact, she soon realizes that her society isn’t so perfect and why people like her are a threat to the system. Both societies restrict individuality; however in The Giver restriction is represented by the idea of “sameness” while in Divergent it is the five factions. The governing power in The Giver is able to enforce “sameness” because it had been the norm for generations, so the government would be able to reassure the public if a sudden change were to occur. The governing power in Divergent lies within the factions themselves since citizens have been raised to believe that their faction and the honored virtue of it defines them as an individual.
In The Giver the community values the idea of “sameness”. According to Google, sameness is lack of variety; uniformity or monotony. The Giver depicts “sameness” as the elimination of difference in the community. In order to achieve this Sameness, individualism is discouraged, and rules and discipline made by the Council of Elders matter most. By celebrating group birthdays, allowing only one kind of clothing and haircut, assigning spouses, jobs, children and names, and eliminating sexual relations, Jonas’s society stifles the things that allow for individual differences. Negative emotions such as jealousy loses its importance, thus eliminating competition and conflict as well. Things such as color, choices, and music had to be eradicated for “sameness” to occur. Citizens aren’t aware of the sacrifices that had to be made, but they have no doubts about their current life styles because this had been the norm for generations. Only The Giver and Jonas, who have access to the memories and knowledge of what life was like in the past, question their current society. On page 97, Jonas explains his frustrations with not being able to pick out his own clothing. He says, “‘If everything’s the same, then there aren’t any choices! I want to wake in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?’ He looked down at himself, at the colorless fabric of his clothing. ‘But it’s all the same, always.’” Jonas’s aggregation is understandable; yet he is the only one who dares to be discontent with the lack of choice. These thoughts would never enter a citizen’s mind because “sameness” provides the community with a false sense of happiness.
The society in Divergent is both similar and different from The Giver’s idea of “sameness”. In the society exists four factions; each of them dedicated to the cultivation of one virtue. At age sixteen, all citizens are required to take an aptitude test to help them determine which faction they belong in for the rest of their lives. This system was built on the foundation that a single individual will only possess one virtue, and it is how the society has been able to govern themselves. A person can transfer out of the faction that they were born in, of course, if they do not hold that virtue. All of the factions help the society function as a whole. The five factions are: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. The Candor believes in honesty and provide trustworthy leaders in law. Abnegation values selflessness in the service of others, and the governing council is made up of entirely them because they are incorruptible. The Dauntless are those who strive to become fearless, and they provide protection from threats both within and without. The Amity are against violence and conflict. They are the counselors and caretakers. The Erudite prioritize intelligence, and they are the teachers and researchers. Though it’s rare, an individual can have more than one virtue and are capable of living in multiple factions. They are known as Divergent. There is one more group that is not part of the social classes or factions, the factionless. They are the people who failed to complete their initiation into whatever faction they chose and live in poverty, doing the work no one else wants to do. The citizens are all raised to believe that their faction is basically their life; what defines them as an individual. They are led to believe that their faction, and the virtue they represent, are the most important in the society and all of the other factions and values do not matter. Our protagonist, Beatrice, questions herself about this during her Choosing Ceremony, the time she is to decide her faction. On page 43 she wonders, “‘In our factions, we find meaning, we find purpose, we find life.’ I think of the motto I read in my Faction History textbook: Faction before blood. More than family, our factions are where we belong. Can that possibly be right?” As far as the readers can tell, Beatrice is the only one so far who seem to have these thoughts. The fact that she is Divergent might have caused her to doubt the rules and discipline of her society.
In the Giver the government controls the community through the idea of “sameness”. This idea had been embedded into their way of life for such a long time that nobody doubts it. It had been the norm for generations, so the citizens are only aware of the lives that they had been taught to have. They depend so much on “sameness” and the government that if a sudden change were to occur, the community would be sent in panic. An example of this is on page 1 when Jonas recounts the time that an aircraft had suddenly flown over the community. He says, “Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen… Jonas, looking around anxiously, had seen others — adults as well as children — stop what they were doing and wait, confused, for an explanation of the frightening event.” Fear of the unexpected immediately struck him and all of the citizens surrounding him were in the same state. Activity ceased and time stood still for a moment as the community waited for the government, in this case the speaker, to reassure them. All of them are afraid of the unexpected, something that destroys their “sameness”, and assurance from the ones who have control over their society is needed. The government takes advantage of this ignorance by enforcing “sameness”, something that provides a deceiving security and false happiness. In Divergent government control are within the factions. Each faction benefits the society and from each other. However over time faction leaders have forgotten the original purposes of the creation of factions. Some people have begun to think that their own factions are more significant than the others, and plot to overthrow all of the other factions in order to have the most power. Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite solely because of her IQ score, tells Beatrice on page 429 that she thinks the every faction other than her own’s is not necessary and should be eliminated. She says, “‘Currently, the factionless are a drain on our resources,’” Jeanine replies. “’As is Abnegation. I am sure that once the remains of your old faction are absorbed into the Dauntless army, Candor will cooperate and we will finally be able to get on with things.’” Absorbed into the Dauntless army. I know what that means—she wants to control them, too. She wants everyone to be pliable and easy to control.” The protagonist knows that Jeanine’s true intentions are to have control over every faction and make everybody into her puppets. Since she’s very intelligent she is able to make a serum and with the help of the Dauntless leaders, who are trying to boost their own political standings, the injection of the serum into all of the Dauntless faction turns them into pawns who are willing to obey Jeanine’s every command. The balance of power in Divergent has been tipped because of greed for power and control.
Both The Giver and Divergent depict restriction of individuality in their dystopian societies differently yet how governmental control benefits from it are very similar. The Giver shows it through the idea of “sameness”, an idea that eliminates any differences in the community. Citizens have their lives planned out, precision of language or speech prevents abstract things such as love, and nobody is ever singled out. Nobody doubts this way of life because it has been in place for generations and it is all they’ve ever known. Divergent’s society is a bit more lenient, with everyone split up into the five factions depending on what virtue they possess the most. An individual is taught that his or her faction and virtue defines everything that they are. Citizens don’t question this system because it had been created for the good of the people though a Divergent like the protagonist, who is able to possess multiple virtues, starts to question why an individual can only have one quality that defines them. Other people have also began to challenge their society yet for another reason. Jeanine, the primary antagonist, recognizes that all five factions contribute to the society; however in her eyes, all of the other factions compared to her own are unnecessary thus they need to be eliminated. The Council of Elders in The Giver take advantage of the community’s fear of the unknown and unexpected. They are important in the citizens’ eyes because they can bring reassurance to everyone. They can continue to manipulate the ignorance of the community while also providing them with false happiness. In conclusion, both The Giver and Divergent portray restriction of individuality in different ways yet both display how government control plays a role in it similarly.
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