To immerse oneself into the reality of The Giver, it is necessary to learn the crucial points about the personality of the author and the background of her most famous novel. Lois Lowry, an American writer, was born in 1937, and her writing career began in 1977 after publishing her first novel, A Summer to Die. Later, she became known for the comic novel series about Anastasia Krupnik. However, the most famed work of hers, The Giver, was published in 1993. As Roozeboom notes, “It is one of the most “challenged” (petitioned to be removed from a school library) novels in schools across the US” (18).
The reason is that The Giver brings up somewhat controversial themes for modern society. The plot centered around social issues allows the author to explore moral aspects that seem vital for the 20-21th centuries. The Giver depicts a seemingly perfect world, which turns out to be dystopian and full of issues, and it is possible to understand the morale of the novel by analyzing the plot, the main characters, and the general theme.
A Lie of Living or What the Giver Can Give
The Giver is set in a completely different world than the usual one. Humanity has formed a “community” with the set of affixed rules everyone must abide and is headed by “The Elders.” They appoint every citizen to a specific job when they reach twelve years (Lowry 17). The life of children seems carefree and even joyful, and though strict, everything appears to reside in perfect harmony.
The leading character, Jonas, experiences a “normal” childhood period with his family and friends. However, it is time for the Ceremony of Twelve, when Jonas’s generation will be appointed to their jobs. While everyone Jonas knows got the necessary “normal” jobs, the main hero is still waiting for an assignment (Lowry 57). Finally, Jonas learns that he must become a successor to the Receiver of Memories whose task is to preserve the memories, due to possessing a gift called the “Capacity to See Beyond.”
The old Receiver, also called the Giver, starts to mentor Jonas. He learns that the Giver possesses all the memories of community which are absent in everyone, even the Elders. Now, the hero lives by different rules: he cannot share his thoughts with the closest ones and can lie. Jonas becomes estranged from society, even more, when he receives memories from the Giver (Lowry 80). He realizes that the community lives an entirely pointless life devoid of real sensations. The system which seemed perfect turns out to be grey and bland. Jonas also finds out that even the procedure of “release” is not an exile to the mysterious “Elsewhere,” but simply euthanasia for those who do not fit the standards.
The hero plans an escape from the community to “Elsewhere,” so the memories will return to the rest of society. Eventually, Jonas fled while saving his stepbrother Gabriel from the “release” (Lowry 175). His mentor, the Giver, stayed behind to guide people with renewed memories. The ending, as Han and Lee put it, “…is undoubtedly ambiguous as to whether or not Jonas and Gabriel physically survive” (340). It is up for the reader to decide the result of Jonas’s quest.
A Rebel to the System Against the Obedient Components
The main character, Jonas, personifies a challenge to society without a wish to change. He began his life as a part of the system and was satisfied by everything around him. Only his unique position and the ability to perceive memories are leading him to “changing perceptions towards his community” (A Study Guide for Lois Lowry’s The Giver 6). Although Jonas gains more in-depth insight into the system’s function, he would not abide by the system any longer, but rebel against it. His “Capacity to See Beyond” means not just the set role of The Giver in society. Everyone around him wants to be so, yet Jonas found new possibilities in both the capacity and the position.
Jonas is not always adamant in decision making since he experienced both the joy and pain of the memories. He doubts and ponders about his ways to the very end. Eventually, he concludes that a change to the system is worth trying because of the emotions such as love, which he feels for Gabriel. It is expressed in Jonas’s decision to step into completely unknown “Elsewhere,” in hopes of a better outcome.
Most of the side characters exist as a contrast to Jonas since they are neither ready nor willing to change. It can be exemplified by the actions of Jonas’s father, a Nurturer for new-borns, who executed a procedure of “release” without any objection or remorse. His mother abides the same way, and, as she put it in the novel, such a way of life “becomes routine” (qtd. in Roozeboom 24). The older generation is already unable to realize the system’s wrongdoings. The Giver is the only character who understands Jonas’s wishes due to having the same ability. However, because of his position and age, he can only act as a teacher and a guide when humanity is finally free.
Community with No Memories Left
The main emphasis of the plot is made on the theme of dystopia. This theme has been popular in the literary works of the 20th century, due to the atrocities that happened in the century. It is closely tied up to the character development of Jonas, who gradually realized that the community is not what it seemed like. At first glance, order, stability, and equality should make up a perfect society. However, something as an ideal seems off from the very beginning. Through Jonas, the reader learns that perfectness has its price. It includes freedom of birth and one’s personal choice, as well as “grey colors” of the world, both literally and figuratively. Just a cold and hollow world nobody would like to live in. It is the notion that was always driving Jonas himself.
The Giver is not entirely centered on the mentioned theme alone. The author brought up more of them. Among the others, there is a theme of passing the memories from one generation to another, as mentioned in Reading Teacher (qtd. in Town 115). The same can be said about the theme of parent-child relationships, plenty of ethical questions, etc. Each of them is intertwined with each other and forms a solid structure of ideas. The main morale can be put into the question, “What it would be like to live in a community with no memories and emotions?”
In conclusion, it should be noted that Lowry’s The Giver is a heavily dystopian novel about a seemingly perfect society. Slowly, but surely, the reader learns that the perfect system sacrifices too much of humanity’s own nature: emotions and freedom. It is the result of the character development of the main hero Jonas, as well as the contrast of the other characters compared to him. So, the novel is a splendid example of a fallen society and a change that still can be brought by its members.
A Study Guide for Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
Han, Kyoung-Min and Yonghwa Lee. “The Philosophical and Ethical Significance of Color in Lois Lowry’s The Giver.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 42, no. 3, 2018, pp. 338–358.
Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.
Roozeboom, Alison Nicole. “Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Political Consciousness in Youth.” Articulāte, vol. 16, no. 1, 2017, pp. 18-32.
Town, Caren J. “Unsuitable” Books: Young Adult Fiction and Censorship. McFarland & Company, Inc, 2014.