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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry


"After a life of sameness and predictability, he was awed by surprises that lay beyond curve of the road."
                                                                       Chapter 22, page 172

About the Book (from Wikipedia): The Giver is a 1993 USA children's novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness," a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. The people in his community are happy because they do not know of a better life, and the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create major chaos. He faces a dilemma: should he stay with the community and the safe, consistent but shallow life it offers, or should he run away in pursuit of a life full of love, differences, choices, and knowledge, but also potentially full of danger? The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold more than 5.3 million copies. In Australia, Canada, and the United States, it is a part of many middle school reading lists, but it is also on many challenged book lists and appeared on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books of the 1990s. The novel forms a loose quartet with three other books set in the same future era: Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012).

"He forced his eyes open as they went downward, downward, sliding, and all at once he could see lights, and he recognized them now. He knew they were shining through the windows of rooms, that they were the red, blue, and yellow lights that twinkled from trees in places where families created and kept memories, where they celebrated love." Chapter 23, Page 179

My Thoughts:
     Although The Giver by Lois Lowry was written for a young adult audience, it appeals to readers of all ages with its presentation of complex issues. The reader perceives the setting and the characters through Jonas, a boy of twelve, and follows him as he enters this important age where his society appoints or selects his future role in the community for the rest of his adult days. When first introduced to the society, we learn that the disciplined and dictated life of the citizens creates an environment where there is no crime, poverty, vanity, or sexuality. The stereotyped societal roles of males and females is challenged as men serve as nurturers, responsible for the physical and emotional needs of children. There does appear to be judgment in the appointment of roles but the citizens consider each role in the society to be a critical instrument in the success of the community as a whole.
     The Giver explores free-will and how our fate is decided with no ability to choose or guide our outcomes. Society decides who will succeed and who will live. While all roles in the community are respected, they also understand that intelligence and ability dictate their future. Throughout the story, the reader is reminded of the importance of language. Citizens are thoughtful in their selection of words, understanding that a slight difference in the vocabulary they use can alter the entire meaning of their message. This is a practice that would serve each of us well today- to think before speaking in order not to be misinterpreted or inconsiderate.
     It is a story of unknowns. What we do not know, cannot hurt us. Therefore, the past isn't in memory. The citizens have no sense of history. All they know is their own life and they accept it as chosen for them. The question becomes- would they think and feel the same if they knew that that they had a choice. Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory, a powerful and respected position that also bring much anguish into his world. As the Receiver of Memory, Jonas is the only citizen provided with information and images of the past and world history. The previous Receiver becomes The Giver as he gives Jonas the memories to possess. Jonas is suddenly aware that there is much more to life if given the opportunity to experience it.
     While they live a life without pain or past, it is also a life without color and love. Imagine a world where your government decided your fate based on how you performed before age twelve. Where you did not have the ugliness of pain, death or war in your memory but you also could not see the sky as azure or to feel the tingle of snowflakes as they melt upon your skin. You are void of senses and feelings. Your heart is never broken but it also never knew the warmth of love. Jonas battles with the conflict of choice as receives the memories, both painful and joyful. The reader takes this journey with him, forever questioning our ability to defy the odds and control our own destinies.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

4 comments:

  1. I read this one in grade school, long before the YA dystopian novel became so common. I loved it because it didn't shy away from tough issues and it dealt with them in an interesting way. So glad you read it!

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    Replies
    1. We really enjoyed it. Even now, it has enough appeal for adult readers as well. Thanks for visiting!
      Happy Reading,
      Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

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  2. I remember the impact this book had on me as a kid. I have to read the rest of the books in the series one of these days!

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  3. I loved this novel!! I thought it was wonderful and look forward to seeing the movie version when it comes out.

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