The Giver, a young adult novel written by Lois Lowry in 1993, is set in what appears at first to be a utopian society with immaculate and faultless systems. Although as the story progresses, more and more of the society’s imperfections are revealed, posing the question to both readers and the protagonists of the book, is the community a utopia after all? The novel follows the life of a 12-year old boy called Jonas and his struggles in his so-called “perfect” community. Jonas, during his Ceremony of Twelve, is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory, the person who receives and stores memories from times before sameness, a governing ideology practiced by the community. The general concept behind sameness was to prevent any kind of deviation from socially acceptable norms. Sameness was used not only to control social values but also to control other factors like weather and color. Due to the implementation of sameness, the community and its environment were completely devoid of color, climate, terrain, or conflicts such as war. In the community, the role of Receiver of Memory was significantly honored, but as the Chief Elder mentioned during the selection ceremony, the role would bring Jonas sizable amounts of pain, pain that he had never experienced before, pain that the rest of the community simply could not comprehend, which is why the Chief Elder explained, they were convinced Jonas possessed all the qualities required to be the next Receiver of Memory. During his time as Receiver of Memory, Jonas is introduced to concepts such as color, emotion, pain, and war. Jonas is given memories of love and warmth but is also exposed to the horrific struggles of war, poverty, and hunger. As Jonas receives more and more memories, he wishes he could live in a world free of sameness.
As mentioned before, the book highlights the journey that Jonas undergoes after and some time before his selection. The book covers Jonas’ daily life and his relationships with family and friends. Jonas lives with both his parents and his little sister Lily. Jonas’ two closest friends are Asher and Fiona, from whom he feels distanced after the selection. The Giver, the individual in the community who currently possesses all the memories from before sameness, is the one who transmits each day, a new memory to Jonas. Finally, Gabriel, often called Gabe, is a newborn child who is brought home by Jonas’ father in order for him to provide him with special nurturing. As is standard procedure in the community, Gabe was to be released due to his inability to sleep soundly at night as well as his lack of growth. However, due to the plea made by Jonas’ father, Gabe was granted an extra year of nurturing. After this, if he did not meet the requirements of a newborn that is to be given to a family unit, he would have to inevitably be released, which is later on in the book revealed to be a euphemism for death.
Jonas and Asher are both best friends with quite some similarities and differences between them. Jonas and Asher are both residents of the community. They both know nothing about the times before sameness or what the actual meaning of the term release is. However, this is only until Jonas is exposed to the memories and uncovers the dark truths about his community. Another similarity between Jonas and Asher is that they are both just normal kids in the community until their friendship is distanced by Jonas’ selection as the new Receiver of Memory. However similar the two friends maybe, they are definitely far more different from one another. Asher is careless, Jonas is careful and contemplative. Asher is immature and unsophisticated whereas Jonas is mature in both his thinking and his actions. While Asher has difficulty with words like “buoyancy” and “boyishness”, Jonas broods over word choice. Lastly, while Asher is often summoned for chastisement, Jonas, like his impeccable manners would indicate, is summoned for chastisement very rarely.
The Giver is a very intriguing book containing several thought-provoking themes. Some of the main themes explored in the book are living in a utopia and dystopia, death, and the significance of memory to human life. Jonas’ community was initially designed to be a utopia, devoid of any conflict. Jonas before his time as the Receiver felt safe, loved, and happy. However, all this disappears when Jonas is exposed to the memories, causing him to constantly question his surroundings. After a while, as more secrets are revealed, the community begins to seem like more of a dystopia. Death was introduced very early on in the book as “release”. It was constantly mentioned without any explanation until almost the end of the book when Jonas’ sees his father euthanizing one of the newborn twins. Throughout the book, various types of releases are mentioned. Release of the old and elderly, release of those who commit multiple major transgressions, and release of inadequate newborn children. Oftentimes, the punishments seemed heinous, therefore adding to the dystopian nature of the community. Lastly, memories were also quite a significant part of the book. The Giver almost every day, transmitted memories from the past to Jonas. The memories taught Jonas emotion and other qualities that existed before sameness. It was after receiving them, that Jonas learned the true value of human life. The author, Lois Lowry, chose to include memories as one of her main themes thanks to a visit to her aging father. Her father had lost most of his long-term memory. Lowry realized that without memory, there was an absence of pain, and if the pain is not remembered, one might as well not have experienced it. I feel that the message the author is trying to convey through the book is that freedom of choice is not destructive. Rather, the absence of that freedom is actually more destructive.
The book was quite an eventful one, with each different occurrence impacting the storyline in a significant manner. The turn of events began with the exposition, the start of the book, the introduction to Jonas’ life, and the first of many looks into release. Next, the rising action was the December ceremony, where Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory. Thereafter, came the climax, which was when Jonas learned the truth about the release and witnessed his father lethally inject a newborn twin to death. Then, the falling action, was when Jonas and Gabe fled the community in an effort to escape sameness. Lastly, the resolution was when Jonas and Gabe experienced starvation, extreme cold, and fear. The story ended quite ambiguously with Jonas and Gabe sledding down a snowy hill, witnessing a house filled with lights, and hearing what Jonas knew to be music.
In conclusion, The Giver was a very interesting book that taught me a lot of things. I learned from the book that, there are always secrets. Whether it be a community or a person, secrets will never be absent. The book also helped me realize the value of emotions by showing me how bland life was without them. While reading different parts of the book, I had a lot of moods relating to how I felt. Sometimes, I felt very interested and intrigued like during the ceremony of Twelve. I would want to read on and find out what would be next in the line of events. Other times, I would be very curious and would have questions as to why or how something happened. I personally enjoyed reading the book very much as it was not like anything I’ve read before. However, there were some things I disliked about The Giver. I disliked the way the book portrayed the future in a sort of depressing light. In addition, I also disliked the ending of the book as it was very unclear. I would have preferred it if the author had ended the story on a clearer note and would have indicated what was to be of Jonas and Gabe.