If we can't think for ourselves, who will? Literary analysis and practical application of Divergent and 1984.
Todd Bowmar
Alex Ehlert
Ally Nelsen
Lauren Rosenau

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. HarperCollins Publishers,2012
Orwell, George. 1984. New York City: Signet Classics, 1949
George Orwell's 1984

Discussion Questions
  • Governments have a history of subjugating people, so why do we allow them to have power? How do you think the governments in 1984 and Divergent got their total power over the people?
  • Do you keep a diary/journal? How would you feel if your parents secretly read it without permission? Now the NSA has been exposed for reading and recording text messages, how important is privacy to you? Is it more important than your safety?
  • The other day was the fifth of November, does anybody know what happened on that day? (Guy Fox) The point of the Guy Fox rebellion was freedom for the people, the famous quote was that "people shouldn't fear their government, the government should fear it's people." Do you guys agree with Guy? What about his methods? Now name some rebellions you know of, (ex. Revolutionary war U.S., French Revolution). Now what makes a rebellion a revolution and not just a terrorist attack? Were Tris and Winston terrorists or rebels? Why?
  • Imagine you're ruler of the world, draw a picture of your throne. How does your throne look? Big, small, regal, humble? Still imagine you're king/queen of the world, describe a few aspects of your daily life. There's a theory that people desire subjugation , do you agree? There's an opposing theory that all people have an innate desire for freedom, agree?
  • Specifically in 1984, we see major contradictions in the government. An example of this would be the philosophy of "War is Peace". Do you think that Divergent has contradictions within the government too? What about our government?
  • Each of you has been randomly assigned to a faction from Divergent and a ministry from 1984. Do you think that your assigned "identity" fits with your personality? If you could change to another faction or ministry, would you? Considering today's society, would we use the same factions and ministries as the books do? If there should be a change, what should the changes be?
  • TedTalk: The Antihero Take a few minutes to watch this TedTalk video. It already talks about Winston in the role of the anti-hero. After watching, would you categorize Tris as an anti-hero or as a hero? Is she the modern version of Winston? If your life was a dystopian novel, who would play the anti-hero?
  • Both novels speak about war; 1984 in the way that Oceania is perpetually at war and Divergent in the state of constant readiness against whatever is "beyond the wall." It could be argued that both are cultures established by war or to prevent war. To what extremes would you go to prevent war? Are any and all means justifiable?
  • You have been recognized by the Party in power as a person with persuasive writing skills. They approach you to write a speech for a high ranking member of the Party recognizing but not empowering the greatest of human rights. What is the greatest of human right? Why do you feel this has more importance than any other?
  • Both novels show clear divides between members of the population. 1984 divides the population between the haves and the have nots. Divergent divides the population by skill sets. Is today’s real world society divided? If so, how?
  • Both novels have examples of political sayings that mean the opposite of what one would expect. 1984 says “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” Divergent says “Faction before blood.” What examples from your life are there of these sayings?
  • What does 1984 say about conformity? Does it differ from what Divergent has to say about conformity? What is the message about conformity when you bring these two books together?
  • What does 1984 say about conformity? Does it differ from what Divergent has to say about conformity? What is the message about conformity when you bring these two books together?
  • "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." Take a moment, and think about this quote. If you look at this quote, would your rather control the present of the past? Why?

Class Activities
  • I want you to write from the perspective of the bad guys. Two papers, half a page (each) no more than 2 pages (each). You can choose whatever perspective you want to pursue (diary, first person narrative, as a third party focusing on the bad guy etc. as long as your focus is on the bad guy, their motives, their thoughts, fears, feelings etc.)
  • In both Divergent and 1984, the characters are forced to face their greatest fears. What are you most afraid of? Have you had to face your fears in the past? If you haven't, do you think you would be able to? Your answers can be written or drawn.
  • Place yourself in the minds of those individuals and groups that have been successful and are placed in power. You and 4 other members of the class are placed in charge of the population and resources of Grand Rapids after a war has wiped out every major US city. You have no outside communication at all. You must devise a stepped plan including press release/announcements for each step to ensure Grand Rapids thrives. You may use any form of media that accurately displays the message and step you are taking. You may have as many or as few of steps as you would like, but they may not be generic or authority transferring. Look through 1984 and Divergent, using their political and resource systems as examples of actions you may take. Your group is in complete control.

Original Multimedia
1984 & Divergent Trailer Mashup

Additional Resources
  • Teaching Orwell's and '1984' with the Times : This website has a wealth of teaching ideas and history on Orwell and '1984'. This is especially relevant because it specifically addresses how '1984' has kept with the times (note the play on words ref NY Times mag) this is useful for any students that feel the text is outdated or irrelevant. It also provides suggested material for teaching the text, discussion questions, lesson plans, other resources, and articles that bring in Orwell's other works for the ambitious student.
  • George Orwell's letters, why he wrote '1984' :This resource is a great for igniting class discussion, it also can be used to explain the context of the book, such as what was going through Orwell's mind as he wrote 1984.
  • Dystopian Novel Literature Circle Activities :This website shows previously created literature circle activities, it's focus is on research and how the book has influenced society, which isn't hard to find for this novel. It also forces the student to sit down and really look for credible sources.
  • Gabrielle Thompson's Teaching Portfolio : In this portfolio the author has multiple links for teaching Divergent. (the portfolio is actually very impressive) She includes her own pairing project between Divergent and Delirium, with a focus on the Dystopian aspect of the two books. She includes her own lesson plans, power points, and resources. Also she has work samples that are very impressive and helpful.
  • Teaching Divergent by Veronica Roth on Pinterest : This page has an abundance of different lesson plans, resources, book reviews, book summaries, and activities for both students and teachers. The activities are the most helpful because they are something few other sites offer. They are a great way to get students involved and a great way to stimulate discussion.
  • !984: How Much Fact in Fiction : This page focuses on the historical context in which Orwell wrote '1984'. It is set up as lesson plans for a teacher and included guided discussion topics.
  • 1984 Discussion Question: This page is a worksheet meant for students. The questions and activities are very in depth and they would help students to better understand Orwell's novel.
  • Teaching Divergent Blog: This blog talks about Divergent and its popularity in mainstream society. This blog provides a reading schedule and other worksheets. This unit is centered around guiding the students to think about their roles in society and how they make an impact.
  • A Good Reads interview with Veronica Roth lends some insight into the world in which she created Divergent. Influenced by several dystopic novels including 1984, she set out to write a story that she has in her head and it turns toward dystopia. This interview shows some of the novels related in this genre but also some themes that appear in the genre as a whole.
  • This Google site focuses on the the relationship between Divergent, Hunger Games and 1984 as a growing trend in Young Adult science fiction and dystopian worlds. This site, created for a project similar to this, outlines several sites, resources and potential lessons for 1984 and Divergent. This also brings in a third book that young readers may be family with The Hunger Games.