’10 Questions’ with Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent Trilogy: Part 2 — Elizabeth Baird-Hardy’s Questions

Part 1 of our 10 Questions Interview with Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent Trilogy, the part featuring the questions of Prof Louise Freeman, can be found here. Today, Hogwarts Prof Elizabeth Baird-Hardy (pictured at right) asks Ms Roth about names, the Christian content of the series, and, yes, tattoos! Enjoy the generous and thoughtful responses!

7. Why isn’t Joshua an Abnegation name, as Marcus points this out when Christina uses it in her babbling cover story to the guards at the gate in Insurgent?

I’ve actually gotten asked this a lot, and it was really just an instinct I had– I choose names mostly based on how they feel to me, and Abnegation names tend to feel stuffy or old-fashioned (Beatrice, Tobias, Susan, Marcus). Joshua doesn’t feel stuffy to me, it feels tough, strong—maybe a Dauntless or Candor name?

I also think the way we use names in groups over time is somewhat arbitrary, and has less to do with the meanings of the names than you’d think. Why are half of my mother’s friends named “Barbara,” but there were a dozen “Katherine”s in my graduating class? Certain names are popular in certain groups and not in others and I’d be hard pressed to explain why, though I’m sure someone else has.

8. Each of the factions celebrates a characteristic (courage, meekness, wisdom, peace, truth) that is, somewhere in Scripture, seen as one Christians should seek to attain, and yet, as we see, the results are disastrous. How do you see the story of Tris as being one about our faith and the dangers the apostle Paul pointed out in I Corinthians 12?

Or is the faction system a perversion of his admonition to Christians to function as parts of a body? Are the Divergent the only ones capable of working together as the true body of Christ? (Sorry, that’s several questions, but it’s a complex issue for me.)

Well, just to be clear, Tris’s story is not “Christian” any more or less than other stories that feel somehow true to people– I am committed to a particular faith, yes, but my intention is always just to tell the most honest story I can (even when those stories are obviously not “factual”!). But given my particular worldview, I think the problem of Tris’s society is that they’re moralistic– they exhort people to behave a particular way in order to justify their place in the world, instead of encouraging them to love and believe and explore and become the fullest, richest versions of themselves. And I think this is something we often do in Christian culture– we emphasize having the right behavior and the right moral beliefs, we judge others for their moral failures, but by paring everything down to those elements, we lose what makes our faith alive and active and beautiful and humbling, which is the love and acceptance of God despite all our inevitable and constant failure to be perfect. Striving for moral perfection, the way the factions do, is just another way of trying to prove your worth when that’s just suffocating and pointless– you don’t have to prove your worth. You are already worthy; you’re worthy and broken, all at the same time.

9. And just for fun if you like: Harry Potter has spawned all sorts of fashion and body adornment crazes. Have you seen anyone with three birds tattooed on her collarbone? People dressed all in blue, or the Amity red and yellow theme? It would be hard to differentiate the Dauntless fans from people who would already be wearing black all the time, of course.  If such trends emerge, would you be flattered or disturbed?

I have seen tattoos and costumes! The costumes make me so excited, I can’t even tell you. The tattoos make me a little bit nervous– if someone has a lot of tattoos, though, or if the tattoo also has a deeply personal meaning (I met a girl who had tattooed “Dauntless” onherself because she was trying to overcome some intense anxiety and found inspiration in the book, and that was pretty amazing to hear about), I’m less nervous. Obviously people should do what they want with their skin ink, but it’s just strange to think that my workinspired something so permanent. I want to be like “but wait! I’m flawed and the work is flawed! Don’t tattoo it!” But that’s the insecure writer in me talking, mostly.

Tomorrow: My one question  — ‘What do you mean you didn’t plan these books?’

Speak Your Mind