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Things Only Adults Notice About The Erudite Faction In Divergent

The great thing about young adult fiction, as a genre, is how it can take very serious, complex concepts about society, and boil them down to be comprehensible to the still-developing mind of a younger fan.  The downside to this approach, though, is that if done wrong, you risk oversimplifying important topics just so the reader (or viewer) can understand what's going on, instead of trusting them to follow along.

"Divergent," for example, deals with some very adult themes. The film series, and the books that inspired it, can be read as a story that explores themes of classism and group conflict (as detailed in a University of Central Arkansas paper by Amanda Wilson). However, in the story's attempts to make the different factions seem distinct from each other, it also makes them seem one-dimensional. 

The worst offender of this might just be the Erudite faction, which in the world of "Divergent" contains all of society's academic minds, and acts as the antagonist faction that the heroes must oppose. But, for all of their intelligence, the Erudite fail to realize some pretty obvious things about their society, and they make some pretty big missteps in their bid to take over Chicago. Some younger viewers may not be able to pick up on these things, but most adults will notice how the Erudite faction just doesn't make sense.

You'd think geniuses would realize that factions are flawed

A major theme of the "Divergent" series is that society rejects anybody who can't fit into the neat little boxes provided by its faction system. This is why Divergents, who have more malleable personalities, are considered threats by every other faction. 

Had the Erudite faction actually been experts in sociology, psychology, and history, though — as they claimed to be — they would realize that even on a surface level, the concept of factions simply doesn't work. For instance, a member of the Erudite faction values true knowledge and understanding above all others as a method of avoiding future conflicts. Likewise, a member of the Candor faction values another form of truth, honesty, for the same reason. Because of this, you would expect Candor and Erudite to share similar values and a similar passion for pursuit of the truth. Their aligned goals would lead to similar behavior.

However, the Erudite never seem to make this connection, despite the fact that most regular adults would make it quite easily. On top of that, any adult who paid attention to the movie's worldbuilding would realize that the factions themselves violate the Erudite Manifesto because it encourages a lack of understanding between disconnected groups. Nevertheless, the Erudite faction continues to support, and even control, the faction system according to their whims.

Erudites shouldn't be the only smart faction

Because human personalities are hardly ever so one-dimensional that they could fit into the limited factions that "Divergent" introduces, it's actually pretty surprising that the Erudites are the only ones with a reputation for intelligence. Sure, Amity and Dauntless, who grow crops and provide security respectively, may not need to be exceptionally book smart, but factions like Abnegation and Candor really should be. These two factions are the ones responsible for running the government and enforcing the law, and while their personality traits (selflessness and honesty) are valuable traits for their jobs, they aren't the only traits that matter.

In the real world, our politicians and lawmakers are generally also some of our most educated and successful people (thought certainly not always). Government is generally controlled by career politicians with backgrounds in law, business, and other important fields. They have skills that are important to managing a government, and any adult who has paid any attention to politics would understand that you need more than blind honesty or selflessness to run a country: Virtues are very valuable, for sure, but through life experience, most people learn that such virtues don't mean much if not combined with practical skills.

Wouldn't the Erudites want to study and use Divergents?

As far as villainous motivations go, the Erudites in "Divergent" also don't have the most believable aspirations. Believing that Abnegation has dropped their selfless ways and are hoarding more resources for themselves whilst undermining the faction system, the Erudites are on a mission to get what they believe they rightfully deserve, as the (allegedly) most intelligent members of the population. In other words, they look to overthrow Abnegation's rule over Chicago by manipulating Dauntless into executing Abnegation and filling the power void themselves. Barring the fact that this doesn't make sense — more on that later — the Erudites also see Divergents as a threat because, like Abnegation, the Erudites believe Divergents undermine the status quo of the factions.

The problem with that is that most intelligent adults, especially scientifically minded ones, wouldn't see Divergents as an inherent threat to factions. If control over the factions really is the name of Erudite's game, then controlling Divergents would be just as useful — arguably, it would be even more useful. In a population filled with sociologists and psychologists, it is indeed rather odd that nobody is interested in studying Divergents for their unique emotional abilities, and then potentially using them to benefit the Erudite cause. It would be easier to control all the factions at once using the abilities of the Divergents, and it would be even easier to groom the population's Divergents to support the Erudite cause from a young age.

The Erudite's fear of the unknown is illogical

As mentioned previously, the big takeover plan of the Erudites, when put under the microscope, is not exactly the most logical thing on the planet. Aside from treating the Divergents like threats instead of potential allies, the Erudite's plan falls apart because of one fatal flaw — and that's fear. With how much they revere knowledge, the Erudite have a paralyzing fear of things they don't understand. It's even the basis of their Manifesto, which claims that a lack of knowledge and understanding leads to conflict. And, as older viewers can pretty easily pick out, the Erudite are quick to demonize Abnegation because they don't actually understand how the faction benefits them along with the rest of society.

The other thing they fail to understand is that overthrowing the government will lead to a major power vacuum that they won't be able to manage. According to the Erudite plan, once Abnegation is gone, Erudites will step in as the ruling class. However, they can't exactly split themselves in half without leaving either job (that of scientists or governors) half-done. Either way, they're creating a power vacuum that could potentially destabilize Chicago as a whole, rather than empower Erudites.