Friday, April 26, 2013
H1G4 Larissa's Final Blogpost: The Giver by Lois Lowry (2/3)
Out of all the reasons Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver, this one is the most interesting: he has
“The Capacity to See Beyond” (63).
What exactly does that mean? Jonas knows that he sees something. What it is, he isn’t quite sure.
“The piece of fruit had – well this was the part that he couldn ’t adequately understand – the apple had changed” (24).
In Jonas’ society, everything is seen black and white. There is no color. At first, Jonas starts to see the color red in glimpses. Receiving memories speeds up the process until he sees all of the colors at all times. It’s very odd to think he lives in a world where there is no color. I mean, how would you get rid it of altogether? Color is a natural property of objects. It’s part of our reality. Yet, Jonas’ reality is changing.
“Everything had a shape and size, the way things still do, but they also had a quality called color. There were a lot of colors, and one of them was called red” (94).
There is something so simple about color. You never second guess what a color is, but here is a place where there is none. How can you say that what I perceive to be red is the same thing that you perceive as red? We always say that being skeptical about reality is irrelevant, but it still has its place. No one questioned seeing in black and white. No one thought it was strange. You don’t know if you’re missing out on something because of your current incapacity to see it. So, should you be skeptical and doubt everything or should you just be aware that there is a chance that everything is not as it seems?
As Jonas becomes more aware about his society, he discovers that release to Elsewhere isn’t quite what everyone says it is. Elderly people are released to Elsewhere. Also, anyone can request release. Elsewhere is supposed to be another place where you can live. However, it isn’t. People are lying, in a society where lying is unheard of. For instance, Jonas’ father is a nurturer: he works with babies.
“A twin. He has to select one and release the other one” (146).
The twin that weighs most is kept, and the other is released. Because the release was recorded on tape, Jonas is able to watch it. Rather than being released to Elsewhere, to another place to live, the child is injected with something and killed. Jonas’ father kills a healthy baby. Society kills the Elderly at a certain age. To Jonas, this is murder.
“It was what he was told to do, and he knows nothing else” (153).
Jonas’ father, and everyone else in society, is doing what he is told to do. They don’t know any different. Does it make it right? This is very similar to Hannah Ardent’s philosophy about the Nazis: he is a product of the system. However, this does not justify his actions. He still took part in an immoral act even though he was being obedient. It is important to think critically about one’s actions and be skeptical about one’s surroundings.
Specifically, in this society, everyone is taught never to lie.
“the reason for precision of language was to ensure that unintentional lies were never uttered” (70-1).
Because of this, using the proper word to describe something is very important. Vagueness is not tolerated. Moreover, using too strong of an adjective is as bad as being vague. In particular, Jonas is very careful with his word choice, always determined to find the proper one to use.
“He searched for the right word to describe his own feeling” (3).
However, Jonas begins to truly understand what words mean when he receives the memories. Prior to this, the word really had no meaning. This type of view about language is similar to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s. For instance, the word starvation merely names the sensation. Wittgenstein believed that language needed to be based on something public: in order for everyone to understand the sensation you’re describing, they need to be able to have some sort of similar experience relating to it. Unfortunately, those in Jonas’ society don’t actually share this common experience that a word describes because they do not have the memories. They do not know what starvation is, making the word imprecise. While it is important to speak accurately, not having words around to even use is just as bad. Because emotions in the society are muted, how can the language even be precise if the people aren’t really describing the right thing to begin with? Can you really use a word if you don’t know where the meaning of it came from? Does that not leave the word meaningless?
Clearly, as Jonas becomes more aware, he begins to realize that reality isn’t as it seems, and the memories are critical to the understanding of life in general.
Total Word Count: 1619
Lowry, Lois. The Giver. New York: Laurel-Leaf, 1993. Print.