The Giver

October 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

            My eighth-grade daughter’s English class was assigned to read The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  Discovering it is a controversial book for school kids, my wife and I decided to read it with her.  The Giver reminds me, in may ways, of George Orwell’s 1984, which I had to read in high school.  It presents a world that seems utopian.  People in the community lead quiet lives, while doing their assigned jobs, and all their needs are met; there is no war; crime and pain are almost non-existent; everyone tells the truth.  However, the reader learns this utopia is forced on the people through the removal of their freedoms.  Everyone is pushed, or brainwashed maybe, into “sameness.”  For example, every family has two children, one boy and one girl; and there is no variety, emotion, music or love in their lives. 

            If fact, the more one reads the more dystopian the society appears.  The elderly, the extra babies and those who break too many rules are “released” from the community.  One soon discovers this means, euthanasia, infanticide and capital punishment without trial, but, it seems, the majority of the inhabitants don’t realize this truth.  Unfortunately for younger readers, an infanticide release is told in terms too graphic for some to handle.

            When Jonas, the main character, turns twelve, he is assigned his special job of Receiver.  He will carry the memories of the true pain and pleasures of life and of past societies.  The society must have these available to the elders for wisdom sake.  However, when Jonas realizes the truth, he, with the help of his mentor, “The Giver,” escapes from the culture with a small child recently assigned to be released.

            The book made for some good discussion about the idea of utopia.  My daughter realized there is no such thing as a perfect society because we are all sinful people.  Because of sin, every society is dysfunctional in some way.  We also talked about some freedoms being removed from us today, such as those in the proposed health care plan, and how removing those freedoms may seem, on the surface to be a good thing, but are small steps toward government control of our lives.  The book’s hero realizes the need for distinctions and freedoms, and in that regard, The Giver is a positive book.

            The Giver is only book one of a trilogy, all of which we will read this school year, so we don’t yet know the outcome of Jonas’ escape from society.  On the positive side, it will be interesting to find out.  Can one person bring freedom to an oppressed people?  On the negative side, books tend to be more graphic as series progress, not less.  I hope this is not the case with Lowry’s trilogy.

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