An Analysis of Manipulation in Divergent, a Novel by Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth’s novel, Divergent, portrays different characters using emotional manipulation, which is defined in Paul Lenda’s article, “8 Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation.. and Free Ourselves From It,” to get themselves to the top. This type of manipulation requires great skill and stealth, using lies and guilt to get what they want. Characters, such as Christina, Peter, and Eric, find themselves using methods of emotional manipulation during the initiation process in hopes of being accepted into the Dauntless faction. These manipulators use false identity, deception, and guilt as their key tactics in order to satisfy their objectives and desires.

One of the ways Christina manipulated someone was by first presenting herself as a willing helper during one of the games, and using it to her benefit later on. For instance, the article states, “Seeing an offer for help looks like a wonderful thing, but in the mind of an emotional manipulator, this is merely a tactical move in order to fulfill a selfish desire he or she has… He or she will show their great will to help you and that you are being unreasonable.

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” (Lenda, 2). This move consists of having a fake identity in the beginning, only to convince the victim that they have good intentions when they actually have bad ones. Then, when they get the opportunity, they will make it obvious that they do not actually want to help even though they claim that they are very willing, making you feel unreasonable. Moreover, when Tris comes up with the plan to capture the flag, Christina assists her until they get to the flag, where, “I reach for it, and so does Christina.

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‘Come on, Tris,’ she says. “You’re already the hero of the day. And you know you can’t reach it anyway.’ She gives me a patronizing look, the way people sometimes look at children when they act too adult, and snatches the flag from the branch.” (Roth, 153-154).

Even though they are on the same team, Christina, realizing that only one person will get to touch the flag, uses Tris to get to the flag and snatches it before she can. Christina pretends to help Tris at first but later accuses her of already getting the glory from initiating the plan when it came to getting what she wanted. Although it may seem like they are helping you, they will use this opportunity to their advantage and turn their back on you later. Peter displays emotional manipulation through deception and persuasion because that is just a part of who he is. Furthermore, the article warns others of this manipulator’s ability to question your own memory, insisting that “those who have mastered the ‘art’ of emotional manipulation are experts in justifying their actions, turning things around against you, and rationalizing situations.” (Lenda, 2). When they are at fault, they will lie their way out of it, making it seem like they are the innocent one and you are the one responsible for the situation. They are so convincing that they will have you questioning your own sanity, so you must keep log of what they say and have definite proof in order to prevent this.

Additionally, when Peter was younger, Christina claims, “he would pick fights with people from other factions and then, when an adult came to break it up, he’d cry and make up some story about how the other kid started it. And of course, they believed him, because we were Candor and we couldn’t lie.” (Roth, 93). Because his identity helped him significantly, he was able to get away with his lies and put others at fault, giving them a hard time. Peter would be able to win in the most obvious situations because of his lying skills and successfully convinced others that he was never at fault when it was him who bullied others. Deception is the primary source of this manipulation where they have the capability to turn the faults of their own into the faults of others using their words. Eric uses guilt towards the transfers for showing too much emotion during visiting day, putting them in a guilt trip.

For instance, when carefully crafting the guilt trip, manipulators will “make you feel guilty for either not speaking up, for speaking up, for not showing enough emotion, for showing too much emotion, for not giving and/or caring enough, and for giving and/or caring too much.” (Lenda, 3). This is a game that the manipulators play in order to get their needs and desires satisfied, crossing any line to accomplish their goal of putting you in a guilt trip. This emotional manipulation requires much sympathy, for they will play the victim to get you to please them. Furthermore, in the transfers’ cases, Eric pressures them to showing less emotion, claiming that “Attachment to your family suggests you aren’t entirely pleased with your faction, which would be shameful.” (Roth, 176). Eric warns the initiates that they must not seem too attached to their family because it would imply that you prefer family over faction. He is guilt tripping them into thinking that it would be considered shameful to show too much care for your family; he is playing the new faction as the victim of betrayal. When taken advantage of, guilt can be the strongest stressor for emotional manipulators.

Emotional manipulators strive to use negative morals as a shortcut to arriving at their desired destination, putting others in troublesome situations. Lenda’s article descriptively explains the different ways that emotional manipulation can come into play, allowing a better understanding of what it is exactly. Most of the characters in Divergent demonstrate different kinds of emotional manipulation in order to appease their ambitions. You must be aware and alert because, not only are they evil and dangerous, but they can also be one of your fellow companions.


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An Analysis of Manipulation in Divergent, a Novel by Veronica Roth. (2022, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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