Task 2D: Competition for power and authority

Characters in Divergent

Task 2D requires you to discuss the way the characters in Text 9 behave towards each other as they try to be winners in the extract you have read. Then, you should compare these characters’ behaviour with the behaviour of the characters in another English-language text or film who are also struggling in a situation where winning is important.

Al and Eric

Al is the character that struggles most with winning as he fails to throw the knives in the board, despite trying, again and again. His attitude suggests he is frustrated and feels like a loser: “While the rest of us approach the board to collect our weapons, he hunts the floor for his.” (p. 1, ll. 2-4); “Al's face turns red. He throws another knife, and this one sails a few feet to the right of the target. It spins and hits the wall.” (p.1, ll. 7-8).

When leader Eric shames him for his failure, his action is an attempt to impose his authority not only on Al but on the whole group: “The next time he tries and misses, Eric marches toward him and demands, ‘How slow are you? Do you need glasses? Should I move the target closer to you?’ ” (p. 1, ll. 5-6); “ ‘Well, I think you should go get it,’ Eric says. He scans the other initiates' faces—everyone has stopped throwing — and says, ‘Did I tell you to stop?’ ” (p. 1, ll. 12-13).

Eric feels challenged by the fact that Al is reluctant to obey his command  and take his knife out of the board while others are still throwing knives.

Al doesn't usually object to anything he is told to do during initiation. I don't think he's afraid to; he just knows that objecting is useless. This time Al sets his wide jaw. He's reached the limits of his compliance.
‘No,’ he says. (p.1, ll. 21-24)

The above quote also suggests that Al is not really a coward, but he tends to be realistic, knowing that being defiant will not change anything.

For Eric, Al’s attitude is an offense. As a result, Eric wants to impose his authority even more and commands him to become a living target at the board: “Honesty is his mistake...

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