There are just so many things I want to say about these books…where do I start? I guess I can start with what I loved. The faction system really interested me. You have six: Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (truth), Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (harmony), and then you have those that don’t fit into any faction–the factionless. Every child undergoes a simulation test at the age of 16 to determine which of the factions they fit into. It tests their reactions in certain situations, and the way they respond to stimuli eliminates each of the factions until only one remains. They are allowed to choose whatever faction they would like, although they are encouraged to choose what their test results yield.
After they are separated into houses, the children leave their families behind and begin a new life in their new faction. The expression “faction before blood” means that they abandon their blood for the teachings and ideals of their new community. Each faction lives in its own sector of the city and they do not intermix. It is interesting to me that this society feels it can narrow a person down into one distinctive value rather than humans being a mixture of all of these things. I also found it fascinating how strictly they adhere to the teachings of their factions without question. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of those creepy old propaganda films. They are essentially brainwashed into seeing the world through each faction’s specialized lens. Each of the factions makes up an essential part of the society, though, so for the most part, they live in peace as they need one another to survive. The social structure in this society is extremely interesting and as a product of mass culture, it makes statements about our culture as well. I would love to spend some time further elaborating on this. If only I had a research library.
Of course the whole “nature vs. nurture” thread is also fun to discuss, as is the genetic issue (is it ethical to fiddle with a person’s genes? Are we really just genes or is there more to it?) running throughout the series. But I think the place where I would like to do some further investigation would be again in the faction system. I think there are some interesting correlations that can be made between each of the factions and various religious ideologies. To simplify: Amity (Pagan), Erudite (atheist), Candor (agnostic?), Dauntless (Chaos? Warrior god?), Abnegation (Christian), and the factionless–the lost, the seeking. I guess this is not surprising considering the focus of my thesis (popular culture and religion). I seem to enjoy teasing out religious allusions in popular fiction. But I would find it interesting to examine this theory and discuss how the different religious beliefs interact with one another; what does the outcome of these novels suggest about religious pluralism in the United States?