There aren’t many books out there that make you think about the way you live your life, but The Giver does. I’m still not sure why it’s aimed at children but it is. A few weeks ago I wrote a review for The Indiependent and I’m sharing it here. Please go check out The Indiependent – it’s fab.
Many film trailers have persuaded me to invest into the books that have inspired them. It happened with Divergent by Veronica Roth, and it has now happened with The Giver by Lois Lowry. Published in 1993, it is regarded as one of the modern classics and has won the Newbery Medal, a literary award for children’s books. The dark nature of the novel, however, can easily be aimed at adults with many school libraries banning the novel, which has meant that The Giver was one of the most challenged books in the 1990’s. After reading the novel, and spending many days reeling from the ending, I can understand the controversy Lowry created, even if she did not intend for it.
The novel is set in a utopian future and follows the young protagonist Jonas as he becomes a Twelve, the year where each child receives their life long occupation. Within this utopian society, rules are accepted and obeyed without question, so when Jonas receives his position as Receiver of Memories, a position within society where he will be excluded from his family and friends, he accepts with little objection.
From here, we realise, along with Jonas that this perfect world is more darker and dystopian than first presented. It becomes apparent when Jonas is told he has The Capacity to See Beyond. Currently, within our world, this connotes psychic qualities, however within The Giver this capacity gives Jonas the ability to see colours once he is taught them. Hence we learn that through the control of the Elders, everything within the Community is equal. There are no differences – this means there is no music, literature, colour, and no strong emotions. By taking away all the differences and choices there is a belief that this will create harmony within the population, and who is to disagree when there is no pain, starvation, illness and war to create negativity and a call for change?
On his first day, Jonas meets The Giver, the current Receiver of Memories who will pass on the memories, from all of time, onto Jonas. The Giver, a kind elderly man who has lived his life secluded due to the vast amount of memories he is forced keep, is initially is cautious to share memories of wars and conflict with Jonas because of the failure The Giver experienced ten years previous with Rosemary, a young girl who could not cope with the pain from the memories, so chose to leave the Community and be released. A novel of this genre fails to have much purpose if someone doesn’t attempt to bring change. So, with the memories shared by The Giver and Rosemary’s legacy, Jonas and his mentor are motivated to try and bring about change within their community that seems so perfect on the surface.
Externally, this tale may seem like straight forward science-fiction, however it is so much deeper than that. It’s about the importance of love, the danger of control and ultimately deciding whether the truth is good for the people – something we can definitely relate to, with the increased availability of information due to the internet, it can be very easy to release issues hidden from the public. This novel may be aimed at children, however the topic at hand deserves a level of maturity and understanding that many children won’t reach until teenage years. The Giver successfully demonstrates the thin line between utopia and dystopia, and illustrates the importance of knowledge and how dangerous a lack of information can be on the human curiosity and nature.