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The Moral and Political Falling of Society in The Giver

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The Giver by Lois Lowry depicts a society in which everything is regulated, including marriage and careers. The society has no freedom and choice resulting in a dystopian world where epidemics like hunger and poverty are eliminated, and freedom of expression is restrained. The people of this society mostly believe in this dystopian ideology and accept their livelihood. However, from a political science standpoint, this society has moral and political failings. The novel’s community does not care for anyone else other than their “unit” (one family). This lack of care is considered a moral failing in society which in turn affects the moral standards of the community. Since there is no compassion, the difference between right and wrong is altered resulting in a society with no moral compass failing to understand each other.

Politically, the government controls every aspect of the people, so there is no space for diversity and representation. The suppression leads to lack of individuality and expression of the people, but more importantly there is no real justice. No individuality and expression forces people of society to succumb to the power of the government with no one having the right to speak out. Since the government dictates every action, justice is no longer a part of society making this a political failing as the government forces people to follow a certain path.

Unfortunately, the society in The Giver has moral and political failings that lead to a dystopian society which paves way to injustice, oppression, control and a twisted society. However, these failings can be addressed through restricting government infringement and introducing compassion in people’s lives so that they can learn to care for whole society as one big family.

Moral Failings

The main moral failing of the society described in the novel is the nonexistence of compassion. In the novel, families are separated into “units” consisting of two parents and two children. Each family is only responsible for their own. Nevertheless, they are unattached with other units and no calamity outside their respective unit can affect them in anyway. This system essentially rids of compassion. For example, in the novel, newborn babies who are considered “imperfect” because of some abnormalities or ailments are killed as they do not have any place in the “picture perfect” society. The government and rest of society accepts this as normal task and never considers this as a violent and hideous act. In a modern American society, such an act is unthinkable and barbaric. Yet in the Giver, there is no uproar because society lacks the compassion to feel and empathize with others. According to Johnathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind, “You have tear ducts in the first place and those ducts can sometimes be activated by suffering that is not your own” (Haidt, pg. 7, week 8). In explaining the foundation of care, Haidt explains how in a regular society we feel and care for each other, regardless of our relations. However, in the Giver, this care for one another is nonexistent and contributes to the moral failing in society.

Another moral failing stems from the idea of the “collective good” over an individual. Similar to the concept of utilitarianism, the Giver portrays a society in which decisions are made based on the majority of the people and not an individual voice is taken into consideration. As aforementioned, babies are killed for imperfections. As a society, the majority (mostly all) believe this is a good act because of the lack of empathy and madness of perfect society. The lack of compassion towards other lives and killing babies results in a bad act being considered good. The main weakness of utilitarianism is that it does not consider the moral responsibilities we have as humans towards other lives. In the Giver, since the people are not obliged to care about another’s life, the death of the babies is considered a right action for the benefit of the whole society. This portrays how the majority rule sometimes results in a moral failing of the society.

Hence, lack of compassion and the utilitarianist ideas erased the fine line between caring and perfection in the society. In addition, the lack of these emotions results in a disconnect within society that no longer has a pain-free world, rather a world of ignorance and darkness where right and wrong is blurred, care and harm is blended, and the majority is always correct leaving no place for individual voices and choices.

Political Failings

The main political failing of society is the lack of justice. Since the government controls everything in the novel, there is no justice system in place. The lack of justice results in a government that is constantly in command and influence. While there may be no crimes in society, there is no justice either. According to John Rawles from Theory of Justice, “Justice does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many” (Rawles, pg. 3, week 9). Rawles explains how justice is not only about the majority, but for everyone in a society. Individual rights and freedom is allowed and permitted by justice and no governing force has the right to take it away from any person in a society. However, in the Giver, the justice is nonexistent which is a major political failing of this society. This oppression of justice results in no individuality or freedom of expression.

The branch of the main political failing is no individuality. In the novel, citizens are not allowed to choose their own life paths. At a young age, the government chooses careers for each person. The person must follow that career path and has no right to object. This political failing results in no individuality for the people of the society. Forced into one path with no personal choice is a political failing because society has come to a point where the government is the only functioning entity that has the entire rights on its’ people and people on the other hand are like living breathing robots who just follows the commands with no thinking or decision making power what so ever. The no individuality results in a society with no diversity and no differences all contributing to the main political failing of no justice.

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Another political failing is the nonexistence of the freedom of expression. Citizens in society are not allowed to openly express their beliefs if it contradicts the government. For instance, in the novel, a character that went against the government rules was sentenced to death. These government rules suppress the people and the people are manipulated in such a way to believe these rules as the social norms. This government rules turned into social norms are a political failing as the government does not take action to remedy it. Furthermore, the lack of freedom and expression along with no social justice erased the balance between right and wrong.

The moral failings discussed in the previous section are an aftermath of these political failings. The lack of individuality and freedom of expression result in a society with no compassion and empathy. The government dictates the life of people and they follow it diligently. As there is nothing called justice, the moral standards are blurred together resulting a society where the majority believes wrong is right and a government that enforces and ensures such wrong. The combination of the political and moral failings showcase the real dystopia of the Giver and a remedy to fix the injustices of this dystopia require government and citizens effort.

Remedy the Injustices

From a moral and just standpoint, changing the moral ideas and standards of people can be used to remedy the injustices of the dystopian society in the Giver. Politically, restricting the government’s unhealthy power over society can allow for a more just society that addresses the political failings.

The government in any society is formed to foresee the wellbeing of the people. The laws are made to ensure the smooth running of the society so that people can lead happy and secure lives. The government should never dictate the lives of people. According to Adam Smith from The Theory of Moral Sentiments, “Our moral ideas and actions are a product of our very nature as social creatures” (Smith, week 2). Smith explains how humans conceive their moral standards from the society around them, not just rules. Applied to the society in the Giver, the first remedy is to change the moral standards of society which allows them to distinguish between the right and wrong, more importantly letting the people individually and freely choose the difference between right and wrong. This remedy reintroduces freedom of expression and justice and a political system with laws to protect the moral rights of the people.

In terms of the government, their role will change as a governing body of enforcers, not decision makers. This difference allows the government to still have healthy control of society and the people, but strips away the power to set social norms and moral standards. The government still has the ability to make rules, but a more democratic system is involved. Individual choices are the driving force behind decisions, so systems like voting will be put into place for society to make decisions, not just the government. This restructuring of the whole government and moral thinking makes the society powerful, compassionate, caring and above all more human.

The reintroduction of moral standards and the restructure of government allows for a society that has compassion and the ability to make their own decisions that is backed by a healthy government. These remedies together reflect a more just society and addresses the injustices of a dystopia such as the one in the Giver.

Some may argue that the society in the Giver has no war, crimes, or pain and is a life full of pleasure which outweighs the political and moral failings in society. However, as mentioned earlier, emotions such as compassion and empathy are essential to human life. Humans devoid of emotions are like robots who can never be part of society. In addition, the absence of moral standards are actually more detrimental to society because wrong acts can be considered right. While there are no wars or crimes it is notable that there is no place for individual voices and opinions. The line between suppression and justice is eliminated in Giver’s society. Suppression is depicted as justice. Furthermore, diversity in a society allows for progress and change which is highly restricted in the novel’s society. The idea of being “same” eliminates freedom, individuality, justice, and morality. In all, life’s experiences are about the good and bad, the right and wrong, pain and pleasure which the society in Giver does not accept resulting in a society with political and moral failings that are detrimental to the people.

Modern Social Impact

While the Giver is a fictional society, the political and moral failings of the novel can be related to injustices in modern society. Many nations have citizens that are suppressed by the government with no voice. For instance, some countries do not give women any rights and allow men/husbands to be in control of their wife. The political failing of the government is allowing such a rule to exist and be legal. In addition, the moral failing is the idea that outsiders to do not care as much as they should. While there are movements to get rid of objectification of women in countries, the country themselves are not doing that much. These moral and political failings are reflective of those found in the novel. The government rules everything and the people follow it with the victims succumbed to the power. While the Giver may not be real, the political and moral failings evident in their society can be traced to injustices found in a modern, real society in the world.

Conclusion

The novel, The Giver, portrays a dystopian society with moral and political failings. Human emotions are nonexistent and no individuality and freedom of expression result in an unjust society. The lack of empathy results in manipulating the thinking of people which makes hideous acts like killing babies seem right. On top of that, the lives of people is dictated by government from choosing a career to starting a family. The lack of individuality makes the people to accept the lifestyle given to them and restricts them from broadening their perspectives. The absence of expression forces people to the constriction of government rules and norms with no strength to speak out. These moral and political failings actually ruin society. While there may be no hunger and pain, there is also no morality, decision making, thoughts, and basic freedom and justice. These sacrifices do not overweigh the needs of a painless life. Society is meant to have moral standards and norms that people choose to follow. The good and bad of society is decided by each individual who is part of that society and not by an unfair system. The political and moral failings of The Giver portray the injustices of the dystopia and how a society of individuality, justice, and freedom, with pain and pleasure combined, is a proper and more happy society.

Works Cited

  1. Haidt, Johnathan. “The Moral Foundations of Politics.” Ares – Automating Reserves, 2012, reserves.ucsd.edu/ares/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=49488.
  2. Rawles, John. “A Theory of Justice.” Ares – Automating Reserves, 1999, reserves.ucsd.edu/ares/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=48076.
  3. Roozeboom, Alison Nicole. “Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Political Consciousness in Youth.” Digital Commons, 2017, digitalcommons.denison.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1113&context=articulate.
  4. Smith, Adam. “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” Adam Smith Institute, 2019, www.adamsmith.org/the-theory-of-moral-sentiments.

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The Moral and Political Falling of Society in The Giver. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-moral-and-political-falling-of-society-in-the-giver/
“The Moral and Political Falling of Society in The Giver.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-moral-and-political-falling-of-society-in-the-giver/
The Moral and Political Falling of Society in The Giver. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-moral-and-political-falling-of-society-in-the-giver/> [Accessed 17 Aug. 2022].
The Moral and Political Falling of Society in The Giver [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2022 Aug 17]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-moral-and-political-falling-of-society-in-the-giver/
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