Veronica Roth Responds to Fandom Anger about Allegiant

I confess I’ve never sen anything like it, though I’ve never met or known of an author quite as open as Veronica Roth, whose Divergent trilogy closed last month with a novel, Allegiant, that disappointed many of her fans. As in, they-sent-death-threats disappointment. We’re pretty serious at HogwartsProfessor about all things Divergent, so let’s take a closer look at four of the points she makes in her blog post ‘About the End of Allegiant.

And, yes, if you make the jump, the discussion will be, surprise!, about the end of Allegiant. If you haven’t read it yet — and what’s up with that? — and don’t want to be spoiled, scroll down and re-read some other non-Divergent posts, right?

What she wants and doesn’t want to happen in offering her opinion:

I don’t want to tell you how to read these books or even to tell you there’s one right way to read them. I just want to offer you some insight into how I personally found my way to this ending, if you’re interested in hearing it.

On the audience she tries to please :

I’ve said before that this ending was always a part of the plan, but one thing I want to make clear is that I didn’t choose it to shock anyone, or to upset anyone, or because I’m ruthless with my characters—no, no, no. I may have been ruthless with other characters, in the past, but not with her, never with her. And I wasn’t thinking about any readers when I wrote this book; I was thinking about the story, because trying to meet the expectations of so many readers would be paralyzing. There’s no way to please everyone, because that mythical book with the ending that every single person wants can’t exist—you want different things, each one of you. The only thing I can do, in light of that fact, is write an honest story as best I can.

On Tris’ identity struggle with what ‘selfless’ means — and how it leads to her sacrifice in Allegiant:

For me, Tris’s parents’ deaths made me realize that though Tris had tangibly abandoned her parents’ faction, she was never quite able to separate herself from them, never quite wanted to; that the true struggle of her character, the one she had never been able to let go of, was to figure out how to honor her parents while still maintaining her distinct identity. That was her struggle in Divergent in a more subtle way, but it was also her struggle in a far more obvious way in Insurgent.

Tris spent Insurgent warring with grief and guilt in light of her parents’ deaths and of her hasty actions in shooting Will to save her own life (which is the opposite of what she does for Tobias, further showing that Tris hadn’t quite figured out how to be selfless at that point). The “selfless” acts she thought she was performing in Insurgent—charging upstairs during the Erudite-Dauntless attack unarmed, spying on Max’s conversation with Jack Kang without a weapon, and then handing herself over at Erudite headquarters even when she’s asked not to—were more self-destructive than anything. She rationalized those self-destructive acts by calling them selfless, but when she was about to be executed, she realized that her parents didn’t give their lives for her just so that she could die when it wasn’t necessary. She realized that she wanted to live.

She emerged from that near-execution with new maturity: she valued her own life, she wanted to solve problems without resorting to violence, she sought truth over destruction. That Tris had not quite figured out what selflessness was to her, but she had discovered what it wasn’t: self-annihilation.

That was how Tris was at the beginning of Allegiant. She was no longer risking her life for no reason. She was still struggling with her beliefs about selflessness—but this time, she was wondering whether Caleb, when he volunteered to go on the one-way mission to the Weapons Lab, was motivated by love or guilt. She struggled with whether it was ethical to let Caleb’s sacrifice happen throughout the rest of the book. And while she was struggling with his decision, she was also struggling with her own identity; her constant questioning about what selflessness is was inextricably linked to her sense of self, as it had been for the past two books. This struggle finally came to a head when she and Caleb were running toward the Weapons Lab, and she said this: “He is a part of me, always will be, and I am a part of him, too. 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, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.” (455)

After that, Tris entered the same role her parents played when they died for her. She loved and gave her life for Caleb even after he betrayed her, the same way her parents loved and gave their lives for her after she left them for Dauntless.

On the meaning of her surviving the Death Serum:

But this time, unlike in Insurgent, the act wasn’t self-destructive. Tris’s peculiar relationship to the serums was that she was able to overcome them (like the Dauntless fear simulations and the Candor truth serum) unless on some level she wanted them to work (like with the Amity peace serum). So when she passed through the death serum outside the Weapons Lab and it didn’t kill her, that suggested she wasn’t seeking her own destruction. She was truly acting out of love for Caleb.

At the end, she had a conversation with David where she told him her beliefs about sacrifice, that it should come from love, strength, and necessity. That was a Tris who knew what she believed about selflessness. [Red letters are John’s emphasis] Who knew who she was. Who knew what she wanted to do. In each book she tried to emulate her parents’ sacrifice, and in each book she didn’t seem to understand what that sacrifice really was, until Allegiant. And it’s only in Allegiant, when she had a strong sense of identity, when she had a keen understanding of what she (and her parents) believed about selflessness, that her journey was over.

Why she didn’t write the ‘Happily Ever After’ ending:

I thought about reaching out with my authorial hand and snatching her from that awful situation. I thought about it and I agonized over it. But to me, that felt dishonest and emotionally manipulative. This was the end she had chosen, and I felt she had earned an ending that was as powerful as she was.

In Insurgent, before she’s “executed,” she screams into nothingness, “I’m not done yet!”

In Allegiant, she asks her mother, “Am I done yet?”

And her mother says, “Yes. My dear child, you’ve done so well.”

I understand being upset about the loss of a character you care about, and I’m so glad you care about her, because I do, too. I am proud of the way this ending mirrors those of the other books, of the way it reflects the realistic (given the dystopian, dangerous setting) losses of those books, the way it shows what Tris is truly made of, and the way it concludes her hard-earned transformation. I think her love for her brother is beautiful, powerful.

I have heard a wide range of reactions to the book, and I accept and respect all of those reactions as valid. But my personal feelings about the ending haven’t changed. I will miss her, that Tris voice in my head. But I’m so, so proud of her strength.

Three quick comments before I ask for your reaction to this remarkable opening of the writer’s play book. Please do read the whole thing before commenting, of course.

(1) I confess to being floored and wonderfully impressed that this uber successful author says, “Don’t take my interpretation and understanding of my work as the last word.” Here is a writer who respects her readers and their experience of her work, who has the humility to think she may not have achieved what she set out to do (and welcomes feedback), and yet one with the confidence in herself and her readers to think they may have missed what she was after in their first reading, probably in a rush, and shock at Tris’ death. Whatever one thinks about Allegiant, this blog post from the author is new territory for reader-writer exchange and, forgive me, a delightful blessing to serious conversation about artistry and meaning.

(2) I highlighted the “mirroring endings” comment to note that she will have to walk that back, if you will, or finally give up her previous comments that she does not “plan” her novels. The selflessness theme and how it works through Tris’ understanding of herself as an Abnegation faction member is a thread that is anything but arbitrary; it’s the story scaffolding fleshed out in her choices, especially her last one for Caleb, the brother and enemy she is obliged to love.

(3) If that wasn’t implicit enough a token of the Christian content implicit in Tris’ death, Ms Roth emphasizes it again in her calling up why Tris is not killed by the Death Serum. She doesn’t want to die, it’s not self-destruction or a hollow martyrdom, but an act of self-less love, which is to say, an act in conformity with Love, the fabric of reality which is not subject to death. This resurrection doesn’t lead to a happy Deathly Hallows ending after a meeting with the Head Master (mom?) at King’s Cross (the top of Sears Tower?); instead it echoes wonderfully, even acts as a gloss on, the sacrificial death of Lily Potter. Her death did not save her life; it saved Harry’s, and, through him, the World.

Comments and corrections, please! Any one surprised that she chose to talk about Dead Tris rather than the criticism about two voices and the genetics backdrop?

Comments

  1. So I just finished Allegiant yesterday and I’d like to start off by saying I’m a fan of the series and I have to give respect to Roth where it is due. She is a great story teller and the fact that soooo many people are so heartbroken over Tris’s death means that Roth knows how to write.

    ON THE OTHER HAND
    I am mortified about the death of tris to the point where it’s actually becoming harder to get over. I understand why VR wouldn’t want the typical happy ending that almost every book gets, but Caleb jumping in last minute or dying heroically still isn’t considered fairy tale ending either I get why Tris had to go to the weapons lab ( otherwise it’s a plot hole considering Tris can withstand serums, Caleb would have died instantly because of the Death Serum) but cmon, David had to be there waiting with a gun?? Not criticizing VR because I’m by no means as good a writer as her but Tris’s death is so heartbreaking 🙁 the real reason I’m so hurt is become of Tobias and what he has to endure without the love of his life who he thought he would actually come back to this time, instead to find out she’s gone. I totally understand why he’d take the memory serum to ease the pain but I admire Christina for stopping him because tris is worth remembering. An even more heartbreaking part is when Tobias says that his memory of Tris is fading and he talks about her to Christina sometimes, like is Roth trying to kick us while we’re down? Her death is traumatizing enough especially because I didn’t even know she was dead until Cara tells Tobias upon his return!!!

    All in all I loved the series and everything about it despite how heartbroken I am for Tobias. I don’t love that Tris dies and I can settle on some alternate endings but it is what it is. Hopefully the Allegiant movie will depict Tris and Tobias living happily in the end like they deserve after all they’ve been through. RIP Tris, I look forward to reading about your adventures again someday !

  2. I loved veronica roth’s first two books. That said, I feel that the death of both tris, and Uriah was completely unwarranted. Tris died completely unnecessarily, and I think it’s really dissapointment over all as a book. It’s kind of a shame that I have to get rid of all your books, just because you ruined them with the third. Let’s just take a moment to think over the death of tris. Why do you think no one likes agents of shield anymore? My friends and I loved that show, and then they basically killed off one of the main characters. You’ve done that TWICE. With caleb’s betrayal, I would have let it go, but now you kill off tris, then end your book with everyone being mildly sad, then a short quip about how it doesn’t matter, and just be happy. I’m calling TOTAL bs here. I guess I just find your ending dissapointing, as well as the fact that she has to die, not even a year older than when the series begins. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bash my head against the wall repeatedly, or read the twilight saga (same thing really), but either is better than rereading your books. I suppose what I find most dissapointing is the fact that you wrote some amazing stories, but you don’t give them an ending worth more than their weight in manure.

  3. do christina and four get together after trice dies because i would hate that, four belongs with trice not christina and i dont think trice should die i mean come on that ruins it, i think christian should saved trice and christian sacrufice herself for her friend. what does eveybody else think?

  4. I want to know what happens affter it all there should be a book of how if tobais finds love again when he dies if they meet again in the hevans and go from there books can be short the dont have to be long

  5. I think it is good as it is, but i dont like the idea that Tobias and Christina would be together, but exept that everything is okay

  6. Divergents were supposed to help save society. Her act was selfish. Instead of working to help society – help save everyone; she only helped to save her brother. That was selfish, not selfless. And the worst part of it is that his life was not worth saving. His lack of character proved that. As per the author , Trice saved her brother because he was hers. She actually had a greater obligation to society. The author fails to see the big picture and simply tries to make Trice a martyr for emotional effect, a cheap move at that. The author was also not true to Trice or the idea of the divergent. And these are only a few of the reasons why readers feel so cheated.

  7. Anonymous says

    I totally respect what you guys say, and I agree that Four shouldn’t get with Christina. However, Tris died to save everyone, not just her brother. This whole series was about Tris coming to the idea of what it truly was to be selfless. Veronica Roth wrote an absolutely amazing series for all of you, and she and her series deserve to be appreciated. Some of you can criticize her all you want but I don’t see those people writing 3 YA best-selling novels.

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