"My faction is Abnegation. The rest all call us stiffs. We lead a simple life, selfless, dedicated to helping others. We even feed the factionless, the ones that don't fit in anywhere. Because we're public servants, we're trusted to run government." - Tris' narration in Divergent.
Abnegation is one of the five factions in the world of Divergent. Members from Abnegation value selflessless to the point of forgetting themselves for the sake of others. Their substance in the Choosing Ceremony are smooth gray stones.
The Abnegation faction was formed by people who blamed selfishness for human nature's errors. They believe in selfless actions and attaining peace through the elimination of selfishness. By doing so, they choose to completely forget themselves and only serve others.
Abnegation is the faction that the main protagonist, Tris Prior, was born into. As such, it holds importance to the novel's plot. The selflessness that Tris was brought up with is what gave her strength in her new faction, Dauntless. At the end of the novel, Abnegation was overthrown from the government by an alliance between Erudite and Dauntless, causing a collapse of the government. Most of its leaders, as well as the majority of its people, were killed during the initial confrontation, although some people were able to flee to Amity.
Abnegation's main leader, Marcus Eaton, was not killed during the genocide. After the war, the remaining Abnegation members left and stayed with other factions, like Candor and Amity, or became Factionless.
Abnegation values the virtue of selflessness over any other. Abnegation initiates, upon attaining membership, are forced to reject a life of vanity and self-indulgence, protecting themselves from greed and envy which are considered forms of selfishness. Things like gossiping, using the mirror for long periods of time or often and buying luxury items are forbidden. As Abnegation members, the focus of their lives will be to serve others instead of themselves, therefore, anything done for self-enjoyment is discouraged. Abnegation are usually very quiet as they don't like to attract attention to themselves. They typically find satisfaction in helping others.
Members of the Abnegation faction are expected to be compliant to others at all times, even if that person is in Abnegation as well, e.g. they take the stairs to allow the elevators to be used by others. It is not unnatural for strangers on the streets to have an Abnegation helping them with anything such as carrying their groceries or treating an injury. Immoral actions are not a trait of an Abnegation, such as the usage of guns for violence. The faction mandates that guns should be only used for self-defense. However, as self-defense is a form of self-preservation, it is considered selfish and is discouraged. Their morally incorruptible quality makes them the only reasonable faction to be able to govern the city as political leaders, but because of their apparent submissive nature, it oftentimes causes other factions to think of them as weak.
City leaders are typically hand-picked from Abnegation, as it is generally believed that the faction's desire to put others before themselves are key factors for true leadership that renders a ruling government incorruptible.
The main goal of Abnegation people is to forget oneself and serve others, so they wear gray clothing to be less noticeable as they prefer simplistic functionality over frivolous style. Abnegation clothes are very baggy and gray robes are also common among members and children. Women usually pin up their hair and men have their hair cut short. Abnegation cut their hair every three months and every six months they pick up a stack of new clothing that is identical to what they were wearing for the past six months. The only adornment that they are allowed is a simple gray watch.
Abnegation people greet each other by formally bowing their heads, as physical contact is discouraged and therefore, feared. Physical displays of affection are forbidden and kissing in public is seen as a disgusting act.
Abnegation, despite being seen as peaceful, neutral, and calm, have a fierce ongoing rivalry with the Erudite faction. Abnegation is in charge of the government and the Erudite, who seek power, believe that they are in fact selfish people who only provide for their own faction. It is very rare for a child that was born into Abnegation to transfer to Erudite and vice versa, though it is not unheard of, e.g. Caleb Prior was born into Abnegation but transferred to Erudite. Parents and family of the Abnegation who have switched to Erudite cannot visit their children, as Erudite have banned the Abnegation from entering their compound.
Dauntless, and sometimes other factions, call members of the faction "stiffs". Abnegation transfers to Dauntless are rare, so Beatrice Prior's choice was considered a fairly radical one. The Dauntless have little respect for the peace and seeming weakness and cowardice of the Abnegation; the Abnegation would likely have little to do with the Dauntless, as their faction provides the defense and military for all the factions, and the Abnegation do not approve of violence or weapons, as weapons, even when used for self-defense, are self-serving.
Abnegation was discovered to be on good terms with Amity in the past. This is reasonable, since both are the only factions that harbor and share traits that do not "stand out" like the others, and are equally passive at most.
Abnegation's relationship with Candor is unknown.
"I will be my undoing If I become my obsession.
I will forget the ones I love If I do not serve them.
I will war with others If I refuse to see them.
Therefore I choose to turn away from my reflection,
To rely not on myself
But on my brothers and sisters,
To project always outward
Until I disappear."
- Please Note: Some members add a final line “And only God remains.” That is at the discretion of each member, and is not compulsory.
Abnegation's initiation ceremony is a quiet affair. The initiates, who spend thirty days performing community service before they can become full members, sit side-by-side on a bench, while one of the older members reads the Abnegation manifesto. Then, all of the older members wash the initiates' feet. Lastly, they all share a meal, with each person serving food to the person on his or her left. It is revealed in Insurgent that Abnegation has hardly any initiates that fail their initiation and become Factionless.
- Abnegation members are only allowed to stand in front of the mirror on the second day of every third month for their haircut.
- Families move together in harmony. After dinner parties, everyone in attendance helps to clean up.
- The houses in the Abnegation sector are all exactly the same size and shape.
- Single people without families all live together in houses separated by gender as revealed in the bonus materials of Allegiant: Movie Tie-In Cover Edition.
- Not every family is religious, but some are.
- Abnegation people are taught that physical contact is powerful so physical displays of affection are rare.
- Children aren't supposed to speak at the dinner table unless their parents ask them a direct question. Their listening ears are a gift to their parents and then after dinner their parents give them the gift of their listening ears in the living room.
- Different genders never sleep in the same room.
- Abnegation people don’t decorate rooms. They see art as impractical and its appreciation is time that could be spent serving others.
- Abnegation people don’t form real friendships because it is hard to do so when no one feels like they can accept help or talk about themselves.
- On visiting day, initiates are allowed to visit their families and to visit with them as adults for the first time. They don’t need permission to speak and are allowed to ask questions at the dinner table.
- Their funerals are a somber occasion. Everyone gathers to support the family of the deceased. There is no laughter, shouting, or joking.
- Most of what Abnegation people eat is frozen or canned because the farms are far away.
- Abnegation people eat plain food (chicken breast, green peas and a slice of brown bread) and don't drink alcohol.
- In the film, Will, a transfer from Erudite, describes Abnegation's eating habits as "a plant-based diet with no sauces and minimal seasoning" after witnessing Tris's reaction to Dauntless hamburgers.
- Abnegation people eat dinner at the table, always pass food to the right, and wait to eat until everyone has been served.
- They believe kisses are not meant to be shared in public.
- Abnegation people view suicide as an act of selfishness because someone who is truly selfless does not think of himself often enough to desire death.
- Guilt is used as a tool, rather than a weapon against oneself. They use it to remind themselves to do better the next time.
- They don't celebrate birthdays, because it would be self-indulgent.
- Most Abnegation people, unlike the Candor, don't speak up their mind and share ideas in public because it is selfish to tell people what they think is right and get their way.
- The only accessory that members are allowed to wear is a watch.
- Roth, V (2011) Divergent