In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.
The Giver is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopia and gradually appears more and more dystopic, so could therefore be considered anti-utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. Jonas’ society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. As Jonas receives the memories from his predecessor—the “Giver”—he discovers how shallow his community’s life has become.
Imagine a world with no pain, no color, no emotion. This is the world of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Jonas is now twelve, the age where he will choose his life’s occupation and will train privately away from his fellow classmates.
But when Jonas is skipped over in the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas and his family become worried. The Chief Elder calls Jonas into a private meeting to inform him that he’s been chosen to be the Receiver of Memory, a mysterious and lonely charge, because of his abilities to “hear (music) and see (color) beyond.”
Jonas feels as if he’s become a pariah among his friends. His teacher, The Giver, begins to tell him to stop taking his pills which stop the “Stirrings” (hormonal emotions). The Giver gives memories of happiness, pain, life, and color– all things forgotten by his parents, family, and friends. Jonas feels increasingly alone as the burdens of the past isolate him from his old life.
Eventually, Jonas will become the Giver when the next Receiver of Memory is chosen.
At each session, The Giver transmits memories of color, music, life, excruciating pain, sorrow, and a myriad of other sensations we take for granted in our society.
The Giver also shows Jonas private videos revealing terrible acts such as oppression and euthanasia.What begins as a seemingly perfect world morphs into a horrifying dystopia as Jonas, and the reader, learns of the dark secrets in Jonas’ society– and the only person who understands is his mentor, The Giver.
However, once Jonas learns of these horrible activities, he no longer wants to be the only one who knows them (once a memory is transmitted multiple times to the Receiver of Memory, it begins to fade from the Giver’s mind), so Jonas and the Giver make a plan to give memories and feeling back to the community.
Written with rather uncomplicated words, the story seems to be an easy read, but the themes and messages are anything but. A haunting story for the ages, a book, I reread often, was originally recommended to me by a cousin of mine and I am forever indebted to her.
A must read for anyone who loves dystopian fiction, Lois Lowry, or literary works.