Normally I write posts reviewing books as a way to encourage people to consider whether they want to read them or not. Less often I write my posts geared towards those who have already read the book I am talking about and I try to raise some questions for reflection on what was read. This post is going to definitely be one of the latter. In fact, please DON’T read further is you have not yet read Allegiant by Veronica Roth, as this will contain the mother of all spoilers.
This last book of the trilogy felt like a long time coming, even though Divergent and Insurgent were two of my faves, I had started to forget the storyline a bit when I started on this. I felt a little like someone with amnesia who had to relearn all the important people in their life. So to say the choice that author Veronica Roth made was shocking is an understatement. I should mention that I typically avoid reading other book reviews because I want to not be influenced by others’ thoughts and impressions, my hope it to raise some reactions, points, questions that other’s have not. I realize that saying something original might be a difficult role to achieve. For once, I am tempted to read what others have said about how Roth decided to end this book, but the pain, and yes bitterness, over a beloved character has to fade before I can.
Did Roth make the right choice? If nothing else, I have to applaud her bravery. We live in a world where in books, TV and movies a character is killed off to heighten the action or tension of the story, but it’s usually a second banana. Roth had already killed off some strong secondary characters from various factions in the previous stories, so I guess it might have been a choice of “go big, or go home.”
Really, killing major characters is so rarely done, it’s basically taboo. I mean we follow a main character as they grow and evolve. We empathize, admire, or even grow to love these characters over time. To kill one of them is to kill the myth of a happy ending, what we were raised to believe and hope every day to be true. How many main characters were killed off can you name that have been killed in books, TV shows or movie? Until Allegiant I can only name The Angels are the Reapers in this book genre. In TV shows, I am struggling. Oh there have been close calls, lots of main characters supposedly killed, but then brought back through some magic plot device such as Bobby Ewing on Dallas. Movies? Yes, Thelma& Louise, but that was a choice, not something or someone else killing them.
It’s a road not often traveled for many reasons. Readers trust a storyteller not to guide us to fall in love and then kill off the source of that feeling. This may seem somewhat ironic in this genre of book where by the very nature of being a dystopic or apocalyptic book it’s a known fact that there will be violence, suffering and deaths. Maybe that’s what makes it all the more shocking, already immersed in all of those, the main character provides the one ray of hope and symbolizes survival. To remove that forces a strong reaction and potential backlash. One could argue that a writer who does that is just being realistic, but who wants to be that realistic? In so many ways inside we are all still those little kids hiding under the covers who don’t want to see the scary monsters out there. We crave the warm reassurance of people who use the phrase, “everything will be alright.” How can we ever fool ourselves again about that when our sense of the world being alright was aided by the knowledge that this character was in the world?
I could go out on a limb and argue how could this story have ended in any other way? Four might have had more sheer physical strength, but Tris was always the stronger one, in spirit and will. How could Roth have been true to the character if Tris had allowed her brother Caleb to die for her and the others? Killing Four would have been the easier choice, though would have pissed many readers off, it would have been less disturbing. After all, Four has made multiple mistakes, including one with serious consequences in this book. He is a damaged soul and it might have almost seemed a moment of grace to let him go.
As much as many readers may have felt betrayed by the fate of Tris, for Tris to not make the choice she did would have been a betrayal of all we feel like we have grown to know about who she is. Is it a mark of respect that Roth felt that we and she were strong enough to handle this? Or is it like that famous line, “You can’t handle the truth” and because we aren’t as strong as we thought we were that this ending made us angry? I wonder if Hollywood will be strong enough to handle the truth, after all the first book in Roth’s trilogy, Divergent, is about to be released as a movie. I can make a pretty good guess that they bought the rights to the series before Allegiant was finished. In the CA zone where everything is superficial and made pretty, what will they do with this truth, change it?