Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The narrator in the Divergent series

This is not just another review on the Divergent saga. I have finished reading the trilogy, watched the film based on Insurgent (yes, based, because it has nothing to do with the book and it changes some of the big themes of the books), and also read the 4 short stories about/from the point of view of Four… so let me rant again about the narrator.


Veronica Roth

If a writer chooses to use the “easy narrator” (first person, internal monologue)- as Veronica Roth does along the whole Divergent series- this does not mean the writer will not face any problems while narrating. When giving voice to Tris, Roth finds no obstacles because, after all, she is a woman and, without coming into differences in feminine personalities, she knows what a teenage woman thinks (thus all those “He touched me! He touched me!” moments in Divergent). But she doesn’t know what a male teenager thinks. In Insurgent, the way Four phrases his thoughts in the conversations he has with Tris about their relationship, sound a bit too feminine for a man like Four. When I started reading Allegiant, I was shocked to find now we had 2 narrators: Tris and Four. My first thought was: Roth got carried away again.

Meyer did it in Breaking Dawn and it works fantastically well because 1) for some reason I won’t mention here, Bella cannot keep on narrating, she’s physically unable to do it so another character narrates; using a new narrator is completely reasonable, and 2) the difference in the narrating style is very clear which makes it easy to follow, enjoyable, and it helps you deepen in this other character’s personality and motives. Also, G.R.R. Martin changes the narrator’s point of view in every chapter of his A Song of Ice and Fire series but, unlike Roth or Meyer, he narrates in the third person, thus proving his writing and narrating skills.

Roth’s decision of using 2 narrators in Allegiant, though, was not that clever. At first, as I said, I thought Roth was just following a sort of trend because there was not a single reason why Four had to narrate certain chapters. But then, Roth did something I did not expect, something that justifies the use of 2 narrators, that to be honest, I hoped Collins had done in The Hunger Games but she didn’t and Roth was brave enough to do because it closes the whole circle of that character. Bravo, Mrs. Roth. BUT, let’s not get too excited yet. Roth uses 2 points of view, but again, she’s unable to give them different voices. There’s no way, as a reader, to tell who is narrating. Tris? Four? We know it by the context… and because at the beginning of every chapter, we are told in big letters who is the character narrating that chapter. But we cannot tell it by the style or the choice of vocabulary. Again: Four is too feminine.

When I came across this idea, I thought I was being too harsh. But then I read the introduction to the 4 short stories. Let me quote the first few lines: “I first started writing Divergent from the perspective of Tobias Eaton, a boy from Abnegation with peculiar tension with his father who longed for freedom from his faction. I reached a standstill at thirty pages because the narrator wasn’t quite right for the story I wanted to tell.” I’m glad her editor someone else thought what I thought. As I always say: write only about what you know.


  1. Replies
    1. THanks for your comment but, what is that you don't like? My post? The trilogy?