Lately, I have had a tough time finding any moment to read for my own pleasure. But I have had my sights on Allegiant since first reading Divergent. It didn’t disappoint. It was worth the late nights I spent reading. Insurgent finished on a rather important cliff-hanger, and Roth offered an excellent conclusion to the trilogy. As I discuss the novel, I will do my best to avoid major spoilers, though I plan to talk about the end. I will specifically mark when you should stop reading.
Allegiant diverges (har har) from the previous two novels in the way of narration. Tris and Tobias tag-team this story together, which was a nice touch. They have become so integral to one another that it makes sense to finally get perspective from each of them. Roth does a really good job at keeping the personalities and the psychologies distinct. Having Tobias’s perspective this time around also gave me a better appreciation of Tris as well. I finally got used to Tris as a narrator. (About time, right?) I always kind of found her narration somewhat aggravating in the previous novels … mostly because she’s so burdened and torn. This time around, I was really interested in her thoughts, more than Tobias’s … but I’ve also spent a little more time in her head.
In this novel, the core group of characters leaves the city to finally find out what’s beyond the fence — essentially chaos and the government. The journey is rather short, and the team soon meets the government only to find out their lives have been part of an elaborate experiment to find the best genes and solve the world’s problems. (Because up to this point “genetically damaged” people have caused the world to fall apart — according to the Bureau.) The novel plants its feet and doesn’t change scenery for a long while as the core group tries to come to grips with this new world that they haven’t known and come to grips with what’s being done inside the city. Ultimately, Tris and friends disagree with what the Bureau is planning to do to the city experiment and decide to stop the Bureau once and for all.
Essentially the experiment makes the argument that humans are genetically predisposed to be destructive and not good enough. There are a certain few, though, whose genes are perfect. But the rich part about this argument is that calling those who don’t have perfected genes, “damaged,” implies that those genes come from something that was once pure. If something is damaged, it obviously started in a better state than it ended in … and it ultimately means that it can be corrected, or mended. This causes a lot of strife, especially for those not divergent.
This argument about genetics also revolves around a perpetual lie. If people are continuously told that something is wrong with themselves, they will probably start to believe it. It takes a huge toll on Tobias; it’s revealed that he isn’t divergent after all. The news is hard to swallow and even alters his behavior.
At the heart of the novel are the serums encountered throughout the first two novels, except Allegiant focuses more on the Memory Serum and the Death Serum. The Memory Serum is fascinating because it offers a reset for the city — it offers control over people because they can be reset. It doesn’t erase knowledge in the sense that someone becomes stupid if his or her memory is erased; instead, it tackles event memories … basically I could wipe someone’s memory and then make him believe he’s living on Mars. And while this serum offers a great deal of control, it spawns so many ethical questions. Is it right to use it? But beyond that, it makes me wonder how much of ourselves are made from our memories. If you lose your memories, or if they’re altered, do you lose yourself? Tobias even comments on this: “There is something deeply wrong with taking a person’s memories …Take a person’s memories, and you change who they are” (100).
But is that true? Roth questions this even further. The Bureau decides to reset the Chicago experiment by using the Memory serum. Peter decides that he wants to be reset … he wants a second chance … to forget who he is, so maybe he can be better the next time around. Later on we find out that many aspects of his personality return. So there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer here, but it’s interesting to think about.
( *Note about spoilers:* For those of you who don’t like to read spoilers, I’ll do a brief wrap-up here. Do not read after this paragraph.) Roth has really delivered an excellent conclusion full of lots of big questions and emotional scenes. I highly recommend this, and for anyone on the fence about starting the trilogy, let this be you answer … you want to be able to read this novel.
For those of us who have finished the novel, obviously the jaw-dropping moment in the novel is to read that Tris dies. Her death was a genuine surprise to me. It was a bold move on Roth’s part to kill her heroine, and she executed it successfully and correctly. I really welled up with emotion and for several pages, I was in disbelief until Tobias confirmed that it was indeed true. That takes talent for a novelist to be able to do that.
Tris’s death also plays to the spiritual aspects that have been present throughout the trilogy. I wrote about some in my Insurgent post. Forgiveness and second-chances have been at the forefront since Divergent began, and Allegiant continues those themes.
I think the most satisfying aspect before Tris dies is that she finds her strength. She finds her strength in what could be perceived as foolishness or weakness. She was always brave and always strong, but to face death serum and seemingly overcome it so boldly with the determination to live and help others live brings out the best in her. Finally, she truly /diverges/ from other people and in ultimate selflessness gives her life.
And I know that many will not appreciate her death. But the chapters that follow are so wonderful. The novel doesn’t end (thankfully) with Tris’s death … we get the aftermath. Tobias’s response is incredible and so real. It always amazes me how much we think we can’t live without someone and when he or she goes, our heart continues to beat. Our lungs still pull in air no matter how much we would prefer them to stop. And Roth gives us those moments with Tobias … and I think the entire novel is worth that.
Tobias reserves some memory serum for himself. His plan is to take it and forget everything. But Christina rescues him from such a cowardly fate. It’s that scene that is so wonderful, because even though it’s from Tobias’s perspective, you can feel the influence of Tris in the room with them. It takes true strength to move on with the memories that haunt us.
What I also appreciate is the power of friendship. Most of the characters are severed from their families, and it’s the friendships that make their new families. That’s been so important in my own life. Where my own family has failed me, my friend shave always been there to mend me.
Overall, I’m sad to see the story end. I made the comment recently to a friend that I didn’t think these characters were as memorable as other characters are — like Katniss and Peeta, or Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I was wrong. Since I finished, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them, where they started, and where we left them. They and their stories are memorable and worth rereading. Veronica Roth has woven a story that can appear simplistic, but she has hidden questions and themes that make this dystopia a rich place.
Favorite Passages in Allegiant
I understand why she did all those things, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still broken. (Tobias, 8)
From one tyrant to another. That is the world we know, now. (Tris, 13)
I know I should try to stop putting people in factions when I see them, but it’s an old habit, hard to break. (Tris, 16)
“People always organize into groups. That’s a fact of our existence.” (19)
It is impossible to erase my choice. Especially these. (Tobias, 23)
“Being honest doesn’t mean you say whatever you want, whenever you want. It means that what you choose to say is true.” (59)
I don’t need to relive my fears anymore. All I need to do now is try to overcome them. (Tobias, 74)
I wonder if fears ever really go away or if they just lose their power over us. (Tobias, 91)
And he’s right to say that every faction loses something when it gains a virtue: the Dauntless, brave but cruel; the Erudite, intelligent but vain; the Amity, peaceful but passive; the Candor, honest but inconsiderate; the Abnegation, selfless but stifling. (Tris, 123)
If they told us what to believe and we didn’t come to it on our own, is it still true? (Tris, 125)
— What a big, powerful question!
If someone offers you an opportunity to get closer to your enemy, you always take it. I know that without having learned it form anyone. (Tris, 324)
“Still don’t think genetic damage is to blame for any of these troubles?” (George, 353)
I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that I wake up, every dat that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. i choose him over and over again, and he chooses me. (Tris, 372)
I don’t belong to Abnegation, or Dauntless, or even the Divergent. I don’t belong to the Bureau or the experiment or the fringe. I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me—they, adnt he love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could. (Tris, 455)
— Love love love this statement!
I also know, I just know, that I can survive this. (Tris, 458)
— I love self assurance like this. Rereading this kind of made me tear up again. 🙂
Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can’t escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other. (526)