Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Insurgent and Revolution in Literature

I don't want to give you all another review of Insurgent. It's a huge book right now, plenty of other people have already written great reviews. Here are my thoughts in a couple sentences:  I thought it was awesome, it made me cry, and it left me screaming for book three. I love Four and Tris, but I could also probably rant about their relationship for hours. But this was a stellar second book in the Divergent series. If you want to read other Insurgent reviews, I'd suggest checking these out:
Refracted Light Reviews ::: Book and a Latte ::: Good Choice Reading ::: YA Book Bridges ::: The Life of Fiction :: Sash and Em

What I do want to talk about here is revolution. I'm going to warn you now that if you haven't read Divergent, you should probably stop reading this post (because I'll probably spoil a few things) and go read the book instead.

I came to this topic because of my mother. She's currently editing her novel that is set during the Russian Revolution and she was reading passages to me that involve chaos and terror. My mom's a brilliant writer, so I was actually brought to tears, and it wasn't just because these characters were in the middle of something violent that they couldn't control but because those characters are representative of real people who actually had to endure such terror. We got to talking about revolution and she brought up her conflicted emotions when, last fall, she was writing these scenes and people were calling for revolution in the States. She questioned whether people really understand what revolution really is.

Which is where I want to go with this. What is revolution? Its goal is to overthrow a system or government or a radical change in social structure (adapted from dictionary.com). These things don't just happen and rarely do they happen peacefully. But the idea of it, I think, has become an ideal. Something that we hold as a possibility. Something that we all hold on to. Other people have been able to rise up and change things in the past, so if we need to, we could do it again. Through history and literature, the notion has become a romantic and hopeful possibility. But I think it's important that revolution is also coupled with this chaos and terror that is so often glossed over. For every man who dies an honorable death, there are, at least, handful of people left to mourn him. A handful of people who have to adjust to devastation and loss.

As much as we all hope for it, peace on Earth isn't likely. We all have different ideas and values, which doesn't always lend itself to sharing and hugs. But we can't wage war over every disagreement. So where do you draw the line between just being unhappy with the current structure and instigating an overthrow of that structure? When is revolution called for?

So coming back to Insurgent, I can't help but wonder if revolution was the answer here. Maybe Tris and Four aren't exactly leading a revolution, since they were victims of the first overthrow of power, but they act like revolutionaries. They spend the book finding refuge where they can and planning ways to change the order of power. There were a lot of hard decisions everyone had to make. After Erudite kind of takes control everyone is sort of suspended in inaction. The Dauntless faction reached a point where they had to do something and I really can't imagine what else they'd do. But when it culminates in assembling troops and rebelling with violence, I felt very uncomfortable. Because here's the other thing - people wind up on different sides for different reasons - and sometimes an individual may not be getting all the information. Their choice in alliance can be innocent, uninformed, or maybe even passive. Yet, when it comes to revolution, everyone is exposed to violence. I'm sorry if this is slightly spoilery, but I promise it won't completely alter the book if you haven't read it yet - but the moment a minor character who's allowed a few quips and lines, enough to make him a real person, is killed and they barely bat an eyelash, I became angry with the characters in the book.

I'm bordering on rambling here, so I'm going to wrap this up - but what I want to say is Insurgent really got me thinking about the way revolution is portrayed in literature. We read this story through Tris, who was trained in Dauntless, who believes in action and so in some ways there are violent actions that are glorified. In other ways, it is depicted as tragic. But when that minor character dies and it barely registers in the story line, I have to wonder if it's a desensitization to the tragedy and chaos that accompanies revolution. His death is glossed over, chalked up to the cost of revolution, and somehow that cost is deemed worth the outcome.

So the system wasn't working, and their aren't a lot of options. I really don't know what other choices there are to make in situations like this - but I think it's important to keep in mind that even in fictional representations of revolution, those people still represent others who have actually lived through such horror. It's not glamorous. It's not always worth the cost.

These are just a few thoughts I thought I'd put out there. What do you think about the way revolution is portrayed? I'd really like to know your thoughts.

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your opinion here. I think you're right - Tris and Four aren't really leading the revolution but they are the symbols of it and as such are seen as revolutionaries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Their roles are definitely complicated, so even if it isn't exactly revolution, it looks like it. So, yeah, symbols is probably the perfect way to look at it.

      Delete
  2. Now I know where you get your "brilliancy" from... your mother! I agree with you and Kate that Tris and Four are symbols of a revolution - but I have to disagree with you on their roles. There are other members such as Four's parents, or even Tris' parents that were sources of an organized sector of society wishing to overthrow the "system." Perhaps because they were leaders in this, their children automatically assume such a power. Tris and Four are leaders of their own groups. They fight and protect their kind. They make decisions. They organize strategies. They make moves. AND... they are you know what with a capital D. So not only are they persecuted, hunted, and shot at - but they represent an entire generation that seeks a change that the system fights to prevent. That is enough to make them leaders. But then again, I haven't finished Insurgent so my mind may change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I guess that's where it gets a little muddled. Because the system has already been overthrown. But when Erudite kind of becomes the new system - even though it's unstable - they kind of have to decide what to do about it. I see them more as revolutionaries in Insurgent than Divergent, definitely.
      I like your idea about how they come to assume power, though, because their parents were previously the ones in power. I hadn't thought of that...smart stuff =)

      Delete

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Insurgent and Revolution in Literature

I don't want to give you all another review of Insurgent. It's a huge book right now, plenty of other people have already written great reviews. Here are my thoughts in a couple sentences:  I thought it was awesome, it made me cry, and it left me screaming for book three. I love Four and Tris, but I could also probably rant about their relationship for hours. But this was a stellar second book in the Divergent series. If you want to read other Insurgent reviews, I'd suggest checking these out:
Refracted Light Reviews ::: Book and a Latte ::: Good Choice Reading ::: YA Book Bridges ::: The Life of Fiction :: Sash and Em

What I do want to talk about here is revolution. I'm going to warn you now that if you haven't read Divergent, you should probably stop reading this post (because I'll probably spoil a few things) and go read the book instead.

I came to this topic because of my mother. She's currently editing her novel that is set during the Russian Revolution and she was reading passages to me that involve chaos and terror. My mom's a brilliant writer, so I was actually brought to tears, and it wasn't just because these characters were in the middle of something violent that they couldn't control but because those characters are representative of real people who actually had to endure such terror. We got to talking about revolution and she brought up her conflicted emotions when, last fall, she was writing these scenes and people were calling for revolution in the States. She questioned whether people really understand what revolution really is.

Which is where I want to go with this. What is revolution? Its goal is to overthrow a system or government or a radical change in social structure (adapted from dictionary.com). These things don't just happen and rarely do they happen peacefully. But the idea of it, I think, has become an ideal. Something that we hold as a possibility. Something that we all hold on to. Other people have been able to rise up and change things in the past, so if we need to, we could do it again. Through history and literature, the notion has become a romantic and hopeful possibility. But I think it's important that revolution is also coupled with this chaos and terror that is so often glossed over. For every man who dies an honorable death, there are, at least, handful of people left to mourn him. A handful of people who have to adjust to devastation and loss.

As much as we all hope for it, peace on Earth isn't likely. We all have different ideas and values, which doesn't always lend itself to sharing and hugs. But we can't wage war over every disagreement. So where do you draw the line between just being unhappy with the current structure and instigating an overthrow of that structure? When is revolution called for?

So coming back to Insurgent, I can't help but wonder if revolution was the answer here. Maybe Tris and Four aren't exactly leading a revolution, since they were victims of the first overthrow of power, but they act like revolutionaries. They spend the book finding refuge where they can and planning ways to change the order of power. There were a lot of hard decisions everyone had to make. After Erudite kind of takes control everyone is sort of suspended in inaction. The Dauntless faction reached a point where they had to do something and I really can't imagine what else they'd do. But when it culminates in assembling troops and rebelling with violence, I felt very uncomfortable. Because here's the other thing - people wind up on different sides for different reasons - and sometimes an individual may not be getting all the information. Their choice in alliance can be innocent, uninformed, or maybe even passive. Yet, when it comes to revolution, everyone is exposed to violence. I'm sorry if this is slightly spoilery, but I promise it won't completely alter the book if you haven't read it yet - but the moment a minor character who's allowed a few quips and lines, enough to make him a real person, is killed and they barely bat an eyelash, I became angry with the characters in the book.

I'm bordering on rambling here, so I'm going to wrap this up - but what I want to say is Insurgent really got me thinking about the way revolution is portrayed in literature. We read this story through Tris, who was trained in Dauntless, who believes in action and so in some ways there are violent actions that are glorified. In other ways, it is depicted as tragic. But when that minor character dies and it barely registers in the story line, I have to wonder if it's a desensitization to the tragedy and chaos that accompanies revolution. His death is glossed over, chalked up to the cost of revolution, and somehow that cost is deemed worth the outcome.

So the system wasn't working, and their aren't a lot of options. I really don't know what other choices there are to make in situations like this - but I think it's important to keep in mind that even in fictional representations of revolution, those people still represent others who have actually lived through such horror. It's not glamorous. It's not always worth the cost.

These are just a few thoughts I thought I'd put out there. What do you think about the way revolution is portrayed? I'd really like to know your thoughts.

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your opinion here. I think you're right - Tris and Four aren't really leading the revolution but they are the symbols of it and as such are seen as revolutionaries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Their roles are definitely complicated, so even if it isn't exactly revolution, it looks like it. So, yeah, symbols is probably the perfect way to look at it.

      Delete
  2. Now I know where you get your "brilliancy" from... your mother! I agree with you and Kate that Tris and Four are symbols of a revolution - but I have to disagree with you on their roles. There are other members such as Four's parents, or even Tris' parents that were sources of an organized sector of society wishing to overthrow the "system." Perhaps because they were leaders in this, their children automatically assume such a power. Tris and Four are leaders of their own groups. They fight and protect their kind. They make decisions. They organize strategies. They make moves. AND... they are you know what with a capital D. So not only are they persecuted, hunted, and shot at - but they represent an entire generation that seeks a change that the system fights to prevent. That is enough to make them leaders. But then again, I haven't finished Insurgent so my mind may change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I guess that's where it gets a little muddled. Because the system has already been overthrown. But when Erudite kind of becomes the new system - even though it's unstable - they kind of have to decide what to do about it. I see them more as revolutionaries in Insurgent than Divergent, definitely.
      I like your idea about how they come to assume power, though, because their parents were previously the ones in power. I hadn't thought of that...smart stuff =)

      Delete