People have always been fascinated with the overall meaning of life. We always question whether we believe something is true, the worth of our gained knowledge and experience gained throughout life, and in some cases, the meaning or purpose of death. In The Giver by Lois Lowry, themes like reality, knowledge, and death are explored through the action and interactions as the protagonist struggles to find the truth about his society. These themes can be further explored in different literary works that explain the overall meaning of the work. In The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges, a librarian is surprised as to why there are multiple books, on every hexagonal level of the library varying in its content. Reality is also seen in the writing of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. It is explained in a more theoretical way that relates to life and what we perceive as the overall truth. In The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, Al Mustafa, is a prophet who has lived in Orphalese for about 11 years. The citizens ask Al Mustafa to teach them different lessons such as knowledge, and the meaning of death. Death can also be explored in Epictetus’ stoic philosophical writing The Handbook, where we learn many life lessons that we can relate to ranging from the meaning of death, which is not under our control. Though each text reflects its own meaning, we still see similarities indicating that although many people have a different perspective on life, their overall attitudes on life will be different than everybody else. This is important because life is hard, and people still manage to overcome obstacles that come their way through the use of their knowledge and always wanting to gain other perspectives.
In The Giver, the theme of reality is explored when Jonas thought that no other books existed in his life. Jonas was invited over to the receiver’s house where he saw multiple, beautifully bound books, more than he had ever seen before. We hear, “The books in his own dwelling were the only books that Jonas had ever seen. He had never known that other books existed” (Lowry 74). Jonas was never allowed to explore life, thus he made the assumption that the only books in existence were the books he was given. Reality is an individual perception because Jonas faced the fact that the books that he owns are not the only ones that exist. In this case, Jonas faced reality when he noticed that books existed everywhere he went.
The theme of reality can also be seen in The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges where the librarian thought that every hexagonal level had the same book but was wrong. The Librarian was curious to know whether the plethora of books were identical as the ones that he grabbed from the shelf. For example, “In all the Library, there are not two identical books” (Borges 115). By way of explanation, even though each hexagonal level of the library looked identical, the librarian thought that the books were all identical, but realized that they varied in content. The Giver and The Library of Babel connect with each other because both Jonas and the Librarian were determined that all books were the same in the content that they portrayed.
Furthermore, reality can also be seen in Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard. Jean Baudrillard developed the abstract principle of reality known as hyperrealism. According to Baudrillard, “When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning” (Baudrillard 4). In other words, when a person understands the full meaning of reality, their life changes in a dramatic fashion. The Giver and The Library of Babel connect with Baudrillard and the overall theme of reality because nostalgia ‘assumed its full meaning” when both Jonas and the Librarian found out that the books they owned were not the only ones that existed. These sources relate with one another since they talk about the truth that can arise from a decision that you make. In this case, they all relate because each talk about books and how there are multiple books in the world.
In The Giver, the theme of knowledge is explored in a deeper context when the giver comes back to his home with a brain full of wealthy knowledge that he gained. The Giver had so much knowledge in his mind that it was tough for him to choose a specific event from that day. According to Lowry, “One evening he came home from his training weighted with new knowledge. The Giver had chosen a startling and disturbing memory that day” (99). The Giver had so much meaningful knowledge from the past, but he only remembered the memory that impacted him the most. Throughout life, we learn new things that can be helpful to us in our lives whether we think that it is useless. In this case, the Giver had so much knowledge that it became easy for him to talk about a specific memory.
The theme of knowledge can also be seen in Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet when the citizens of Orphalese asked Al Mustafa about the overall meaning of knowledge. Gibran states, “Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge” (Gibran 23). The prophet tells the citizens of Orphalese that their hearts know what is in store during the day and nights as their hearts love listening to the wealthy knowledge that it brings to their everyday life. We can see something similar in The Giver because the giver has so much knowledge that helped him explain his emotions about a certain memory. Both The Giver and The Prophet are similar in that they talk about knowledge. Everybody’s mind is full of knowledge that accumulates throughout their life that can be helpful as they mature.
Death is another theme that can be analyzed in The Giver when Jonas was given the memory of war that The Giver had of people being slaughtered and noticed that he could not resist it. We see, “Finally, when he knew that he could bear it no longer and would welcome death himself, he opened his eyes and was once again on the bed” ( Lowry 120). Jonas could not take the memory any longer and opened his eyes in the Annex room with The Giver and finds out that it was all a memory. Though death is an event that everybody is not looking forward to, we can see how traumatic it can be even when you witness other people die. In this case, Jonas is given the memory of the war and faces the fact that he cannot take the gore anymore.
Death can also be portrayed in one of Epictetus’s lecture notes from The Handbook. His 16th lecture note talks about how death should not be something that everybody worries about in life. It states, “Let death and exile and everything that is terrible appear before your eyes every day, especially death;” (Epictetus 16). In this quote, Epictetus conveys that death should be the last thing that every individual should think about. Everybody should live life to the fullest and enjoy every second of it. This can be related to The Giver because when Jonas was given the memory of war, he could “bear it no longer” and opens his eyes to find out that he was in the annex room with The Giver. Jonas clearly does not want the memory of war and all the gruesome deaths to be the reason why he does not explore the truth as to why society always forgets about things.
In The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, death can also be represented when the citizens ask Al Mustafa to clarify the meaning of death. Al Mustafa responds, “The owl whose night-bound eyes are bling unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light” (Gibran 34). Clearly, this quote is saying that we have to live life to the fullest. We cannot find out when our afterlife is going to occur since life moves one day at a time. He refers to the owl as a way to represent that owls always come out at night and they have never experienced day light in their lives before. We can relate this back to The Giver and The Handbook because both Jonas and Epictetus want to live life to the fullest and do not want to experience death although it will happen sometime in their lives. We do not know when we are going to die. The only person that knows when we are going to die is god therefore, we cannot predict our own death.
In Lowry’s The Giver, Borges’s The Library of Babel, Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, Epictetus’s The Handbook and The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, themes such reality, knowledge and death can be analyzed in a global context. Reality can be explored because both Jonas and the Librarian want to know the reality or in other words the truth as to why they perceive things in such a way. Knowledge can also be analyzed through these texts because both The Giver and Al Mustafa are knowledgeful people who have many experiences that they are willing to share with everybody they meet in their lives. Death can also be portrayed in these texts since Jonas does not want to witness the memory of war resulting in failure to find the overall truth of the society in which he lives in. Clearly, these texts relate with each other as we see the overall connections between the themes.