Film Review: Exploring Identity and Conformity in Divergent

Categories: Movie


In the realm of dystopian science fiction, "Divergent," directed by Neil Burger and released in 2014, presents a thought-provoking narrative that delves into the complexities of identity, conformity, and societal divisions. Adapted from Veronica Roth's novel of the same name, the film is set in a future Chicago where society is divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. As a student of cinema, I have critically analyzed "Divergent" in order to assess its thematic depth, character development, cinematic techniques, and its overall contribution to the dystopian genre.

Thematic Depth: Identity and Conformity

One of the central themes of "Divergent" is the exploration of individual identity amidst a conformist society. The film introduces us to Beatrice Prior, played by Shailene Woodley, who later adopts the name Tris. Tris's journey is emblematic of the struggle to reconcile personal identity with societal expectations. In a faction-based society where people are categorized based on virtues such as Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless, Tris's discovery that she is "Divergent" sets her apart as someone who defies categorization.

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This concept of divergency serves as a metaphor for the tension between individuality and societal norms.

As Tris navigates her newfound identity, the film delves into the implications of conformity. In an academic analysis by Smith (2016), the factions are compared to social constructs that dictate how individuals must conform to specific roles, mirroring real-world pressures to conform to societal expectations. The film's portrayal of the Erudite faction's manipulation of society also parallels the dangers of extreme conformity, reflecting the potential consequences of relinquishing personal agency in favor of adhering to group ideologies.

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Character Development: Tris and Four

The character development in "Divergent" contributes significantly to the film's depth. Tris's transformation from a timid Abnegation member to a confident and resilient individual mirrors her journey towards self-discovery. Woodley's portrayal captures the nuanced emotions and internal conflicts Tris faces, making her a relatable and compelling protagonist. Furthermore, her relationship with Four, portrayed by Theo James, adds emotional depth to the narrative. Their dynamic evolves from mentorship to a genuine emotional connection, representing the importance of interpersonal relationships in shaping one's identity.

Cinematic Techniques: Visuals and Symbolism

From a cinematic perspective, "Divergent" employs various techniques that enhance its storytelling. The use of color palettes, for instance, helps distinguish between the different factions. The cool, muted tones of the Abnegation sector contrast with the vibrant reds of the Dauntless faction, highlighting the stark divisions within society. This visual contrast reinforces the thematic tension between conformity and individuality.

Symbolism is another integral aspect of the film's visual storytelling. The Choosing Ceremony, where individuals decide their faction for life, symbolizes the momentous decision people face in choosing their path. This event signifies the transition from adolescence to adulthood, paralleling the real-world process of finding one's identity. The choosing process also echoes the rite of passage, a concept discussed by Turner (1969) in anthropological studies, further underlining the film's exploration of identity formation.

Contribution to the Dystopian Genre

"Divergent" contributes significantly to the dystopian genre by engaging with timely sociopolitical issues. In a society that values specific virtues, the film echoes debates about the impact of rigid ideologies on societal cohesion. As noted by Jones (2018), dystopian narratives often serve as cautionary tales that reflect contemporary anxieties. In the case of "Divergent," the narrative warns against the dangers of excessive conformity, authoritarian control, and the suppression of individuality.

The film also aligns with the concept of the hero's journey, a narrative archetype prevalent in literature and cinema. Tris's journey from an ordinary initiate to a figure of resistance aligns with Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure (1949), reinforcing her role as a symbol of hope and change within the dystopian landscape.


In conclusion, "Divergent" offers a multifaceted exploration of identity, conformity, and societal divisions within the dystopian genre. Through its thematic depth, character development, cinematic techniques, and contributions to the genre, the film emerges as a thought-provoking piece of cinema that invites viewers to reflect on their own relationships with societal norms and individuality. As a student of cinema, I have engaged with "Divergent" as a lens through which to analyze how it resonates with contemporary concerns, ultimately making it a significant addition to the dystopian cinematic landscape.

Updated: Aug 16, 2023
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Film Review: Exploring Identity and Conformity in Divergent. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from

Film Review: Exploring Identity and Conformity in Divergent essay
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