Divergent trilogy names

So, I recently finished reading the Divergent trilogy (late to the game, I know), and given our recent discussion here about naming problems in fiction, I thought this would be an appropriate place for a rant :) The world-building as a whole is actually hugely problematic, especially once everything starts to get explained in the third book, but I'll try to stick to the naming issues here.

So, for those who haven't read it (I'll avoid any major spoilers), this dystopian society is divided up into five factions, each of which is based on a single personality trait. The culture of the factions heavily encourages the development of that trait, to the exclusion of all others. 

Because parents generally choose names that reflect their values, one would expect these factions to all have very distinctive naming patterns that reflect the traits they're trying to encourage. The novels even hint that there are some kind of patterns to the naming--the narrator mentions at one point that Edith is an Abnegation name, and at another point that Joshua is not an Abnegation name. But I couldn't identify any rhyme or reason for the name choices. 

Some examples of character names and the factions they were born into:

Abnegation (the selfless do-gooders): Beatrice, Caleb, Tobias, Susan, Robert, Marcus

Dauntless (the brave adrenaline junkies): Uriah, Zeke (Ezekiel), Marlene, Lynn, Shauna

Candor (honest to the point of having no filter): Christina, Peter, Molly, Drew, Al

Erudite (the intellectual snobs): Cara, Will, Edward, Myra, Jeanine

Amity (the peace-loving hippies): I'm actually not sure we ever get a name for someone born into Amity, only transfers

Does anyone else see any patterns that I'm missing?

If I could re-do the naming for this series, here's what I would do:

Abnegation: Naming is about expressing individuality and personal style, and the Abnegation believe that individuality and personal style are selfish, so I imagine that Abnegation would have a very short, strict list of acceptable names for children, all of which are very traditional and non-distinctive. Probably about 75% of the men would be named John. We might also see James, George and Richard, and the women would be things like Sarah, Elizabeth and Mary. I actually think that Beatrice, Susan and Robert are good choices here. If Abnegation were the only faction using Old Testament names that might work ok, because I associate Old Testament names with a kind of religious austerity that fits the faction, but we see Uriah and Ezekiel in Dauntless, so it doesn't work for me as executed. 

Dauntless: These people would be using names straight out of the recent Troublemakers Trend blog post: Maverick, Rogue, Wolf, Cannon, Rebel, etc. Max should really have been Maxx. I can see them going hard for names with high Scrabble-value letters like Zora or Tarquin, and for creative spellings. I can also see a lot of boys' names and surnames on girls--one of the Dauntless-born female characters at one point mentions that she shaved her head so she would be taken more seriously in initiation, so I imagine that the disdain for femininity and anything soft or delicate would extend into the naming realm, too.

Candor: This is the one that I find the most difficult--I can't really pin down what kind of naming style would emphasize honesty, other than a handful of names with related meanings: Vera, Verity, the light and white names--Clare, Phoebe, Gwendolen, etc. Anyone else have any ideas here?

Erudite: They would choose obscure or esoteric names that emphasize their learning, or names that pay homage to great thinkers. I would probably draw mostly upon some of the more unusual Greek and Latin names like Eurydice, Sophronia, Agamemnon, Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, Bellerophon, Polyhymnia, Clytemnestra. 

Amity: Lots of nature and virtue names here—Lily, Rose, Daisy, River, Indigo, Linden, Faith, Patience, Joy, Constant.

I also think that people who switch factions would likely want to adopt new names that fit in better with their new factions--in fact, I imagine that the new factions might require it, since they're so adamant that people give up their old lives. But the only people who are mentioned as going by different names are the two leads--Beatrice decides to go by Tris in Dauntless, and the male lead goes by the nickname Four which was given to him by his initiation instructor.

Does anyone have any other thoughts or ideas for names that would better suit the various factions? No need to have read the books to play :)


By EVie
October 6, 2014 1:58 PM

I also wanted to point out that the natural comparison to the Divergent series is The Hunger Games, which I thought did a fantastic job of naming. People in the wealthy and hedonistic Capitol have Roman names--Plutarch, Seneca, Cinna, Flavia, Octavia, Venia, Caesar--which fits right in with other allusions to the Roman Empire, most notably the name of the country, Panem, a direct reference to panem et circenses, "bread and circuses"--a quote from Juvenal which refers to how the ruling class can maintain power as long as they keep the populace well-supplied with food and entertainment. People from District 11, agriculture, have agricultural or botanical names--Rue, Thresh, Seeder, Chaff. The star tribute from District 4, fishing, has the perfect fishy name--Finnick. In District 1, luxury goods, the people have glitzy names like Glimmer, Marvel, Cashmere and Gloss (and Katniss comments explicitly on how their names are ridiculous). District 2 seems to ape the Capitol and use Roman names (Cato, Enobaria, Brutus). Not all the characters have thematic names, but there's enough consistency to show that there *are* different styles in different districts, and enough variation to make it realistic--not all parents name their kids according to current styles. 

October 6, 2014 6:14 PM

Ooh, great post. I agree that Hunger Games did a great job with naming, and that Divergent did not. I like all your thoughts for how you would re-name the Divergent characters, and I also don't have good suggestions for Candor other than maybe, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of names ... maybe even just non-name adjectives? Honest, Candid, Factual, Serious, Kind, Academic. Sort of no-fuss-no-muss, tell-it-like-it-is names. Or maybe like Native American-type names, that describe the person? Youngest Son, Fast As A Cheetah, things like that? (Those are terrible examples! Ha! Not at all beautiful like so many of those kinds of names can be!) I like your ideas of names with truth/clarity-related meanings. Certainly no kre8tiv spellings.

I can see a lot of possibility of overlap between the factions with each of your renamings, which I think is a strength, as it shows that our differences are maybe not all that different -- like I could see Constant being an Amity name, and a Candor name, and an Abnegation name. The overlap idea could also play into the transfer storyline -- maybe names that could fit into more than one faction would belong to a higher percentage of those who end up transferring?

Really interesting, thanks!

By EVie
October 7, 2014 3:07 PM

Ooh, yes, I like the idea of Candor names having very transparent meanings, without any layers of translation to obscure them--kind of like naming in China, where names are just ordinary adjective/noun combos, not a special category of noun (at least as far as I understand it--someone please correct me if I'm wrong). So Beautiful Willow, Strong Boar, Bright Star, Summer Rain, etc. That would overlap a lot with my idea for Amity, though, so maybe I can think of something else for Amity that might distinguish it a little bit... (not that some overlap is a bad thing, like you said, but I think it would make for cleaner worldbuilding if there were some conceptual difference). 

October 18, 2014 2:06 PM

EVie, while you're right that Chinese names are "just ordinary adjective/noun combos" (from my understanding, but I can't be sure),  parents will also try to "hide" their kids, in a way (I believe they're hiding them from the gods' causing misfortune, or something like that -- anyone feel free correct me if I have it wrong) by calling their kids things like "dog" or by birth order number, in everyday life, instead of their Chinese names. Religiously-speaking, this is in effect, a way of protecting their kids from the gods. I'm not sure what kind of occasions merit the use of the actual Chinese name, though.

At least that's true for the culture I've been told of; it's not necessarily the same for all Chinese families.

October 8, 2014 3:15 PM

Suzanne Collins is just a better writer than Veronica Roth. There were many problems with the Divergent trilogy, but the names are an excellent way (as usual!) of getting to the heart of the matter. I love traleerose's ideas for Candor names. I think that nicknames could be added to this group. I could see a Candor parent thinking, "Why use the whole name if I'm only going to use the nickname?" Abby, Jim, Joe, and Beth might work. 

By EVie
October 8, 2014 3:36 PM

Good call with the nicknames. And yes, I think the names in the Divergent trilogy are representative of the general lack of planning and forethought in the plotting and world-building. Roth has even admitted that she had no idea where the story was going while writing the first book (except for, you know, that ending that everyone hated--that part was planned from the beginning). She basically wrote herself into a corner and just wasn't a skilled or experienced enough writer to navigate her way back out (which, to be fair, is only to be expected of a 22-year-old, which she was at the time of writing the first book. But she's made millions off it, so I feel perfectly entitled to criticize).

October 8, 2014 9:11 PM

I was frustrated with the series because it had so much potential. The ideas were very provocative, but didn't get fleshed out well. 

I like the idea of the Candor using nicknames, except for the fact that so many nicknames seem friendly and cozy, which the Candor aren't. Maybe a Candor child could be Jim, while his Amity cousin could be Jimmy or Jammers (nicknames for James, because the Amity would enjoy creating intimacy through the use of pet names).

October 18, 2014 11:35 AM

Maybe it would be that, Candor wouldn't necessarily use all nicknames, but that if they did have a nickname, it wouldn't actually be short for anything?

As for Divergent's quality, I find that a lot of dystopian books which came after the Hunger Games just generally aren't as good, but the ones that came before the Hunger Games are great and have equal or superior world-building, but that's just an observation 

October 19, 2014 9:12 PM

I think that's mostly because there's so many more of them now that it's harder to find the really good ones. Before, authors who wrote dystopian did it because they just liked it, and so it would be more likely to be better. Now it's really popular, and I would guess that the sheer increase in quantity would make it harder to find anything good. May or may not be that case, but interesting to consider...

By EVie
October 20, 2014 1:12 AM

I think a lot of authors are just thinking "Ooh, dystopian's a moneymaker!" and churning out really bad, derivative work in the hopes of being "the next Hunger Games"... similar to what happened with vampires after Twilight (not that Twilight was any good in the first place, but there were still plenty of people trying to jump on the bandwagon). It's happened in other genres, too, e.g. the endless attempts of fantasy authors to re-write The Lord of the Rings.