Wednesday, April 24, 2013
H1G4 Larissa's Final Blogpost: The Giver by Lois Lowry (1/3)
I remember having to read this book in elementary or middle school. This may make it seem juvenile, but The Giver is anything but that. I personally love this book, and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.
The story is set in a dystopian society where everyone is assigned a job at the age of twelve. Everyone wears the same clothes and continues to do the same thing every day. Up until this point, children go to school, play with their friends, and complete a certain number of volunteer hours each year. Job assignments are chosen by a committee, who bases the decision on the child’s volunteer work, personality traits, etc. At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is given a very rare assignment.
“You will be trained to be our next Receiver of Memory. Thank you for your childhood” (64).
Jonas does not know what his job is until he begins his training with the current Receiver, who is now called the Giver. He eventually learns that he will be an advisor to the Committee of Elders, the leaders of society. He gains his wisdom through memories. During his training, the Giver transfers centuries worth of memories to Jonas. As he receives more memories, Jonas becomes aware that society is not what it seems to be. He lives in a dystopia, and at the very end of the novel he escapes.
The idea of utopia presented in most novels is very similar to that of Karl Marx’s idea of everyone being treated equally. While it may take it to the extreme, the repercussions lead to the society turning into a dystopia.
Usually, everything seems perfect and wonderful until someone learns more about the society. But, there has to be a reason why society became the way it did in the first place. Here, it was to eliminate pain: “We really have to protect people from wrong choices” (99). So, there are no seasons: no rain or snow. There aren’t any animals or hardly any toys (one stuffed animal per child until the age of 8). Moreover, in Jonas’ society, everyone is the same. Everything is the same. People are treated the same way, much like Marx’s ideas about society. It is all about people as a whole, not as individuals. “There was never any comfortable way to mention or discuss one’s successes without breaking the rule against bragging, even if one didn’t meant to” (27). And if you say or do something rude, the proper way to handle the situation is the following exchange between people: “I apologize for ____”. “I accept your apology.” No questions are asked. That’s the end of it.
Unfortunately, this idea of a painless life where everyone is equal has some major consequences. Here, it appears as though emotions are muted. After dinner every night, there is a ritual, so to speak.
“The evening telling of feelings” (5).
Jonas’ family unit, consisting of his mother, father, and younger sister, go around the table and each character explains how their day made them feel. While it appears that the characters legitimately feel how they say they do, it’s kind of unsettling. First, you have to share your feelings from the day. Sometimes you just do not want to do talk about how you feel. The whole thing appears fake and superficial. As Jonas receives memories, he becomes more aware.
“These were deeper and did not need to be told. They were felt” (132).
My question is why doesn’t Jonas’ family feel anything? The monotony of doing the same thing, day in day out, over and over, seems to drown out all emotion. If they can’t feel pain, can they really feel anything at all? Everyone always says in order to have the good stuff, you need the bad stuff too. You can’t eliminate pain: you wouldn’t have a life.
Even worse than that, they don’t feel love either. When Jonas asks his parents if they love him, their response is
“You have used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it’s almost become obsolete” (127).
Love is anything but general. By eliminating choice and freedom, emotions disappeared. There is no meaning in anything, so there is no need for feeling. Existentialists believe life only has meaning by making choices. If all anyone ever does is continue to do what they are told, without really realizing why they are doing it, it loses all meaning. It gets rid of pain, but Jonas’ family doesn’t feel anything because of the lack of choice. Without feeling is there really any purpose to life, even if it means having no pain?
“Life here is so orderly, so predictable – so painless. It’s what they’ve chosen” (103).
Word Count: 789
Lowry, Lois. The Giver. New York: Laurel-Leaf, 1993. Print.