Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

I could not put this book down - no exaggeration.  I even brought it with me to a birthday party and obsessively read it there, while in my own little world.  Yes, it was a really quick and easy read, but the plot was definitely engaging.

If you haven't read this story, you should.  Before you exclaim how weird it is, consider what the author is telling us - especially for young people!  (The author dedicated this book to future generations.)  This story forces us to think about things that we may consider odd or outrageous, yes; but these possibilities are very real. There are people who do not believe humans are capable of making right decisions for themselves or their families.  They do not value human life or individuality. They want everyone to be equal and exist in the same capacity.  There should be no differences, all in the name of fairness.

The setting of The Giver is a perfect little utopian community: nothing is earned, according to one's abilities or efforts, but distributed equally, such as food, transportation, and jobs.  Young people are assigned a fitting, necessary job within the community, adults are assigned a perfect mate, and up to two perfect children are entrusted to a family unit.  There is no pain, sadness, suffering, or death. When the old get too old, they are eliminated from the burden of the community.

The most difficult practice is exposed with the babies who are born to women given the job of birthmother.  Every baby has to be deemed flawless, and those who are not are killed, just like the Old.  That was the most horrific part of the story.  

Another glaring aspect of the story is the absence of relationships based on love and respect.  Since people are grouped to serve in a family unit, as spouses, parents, or children, no one knows love, sexual attraction (for which they take a pill to eliminate), respect, comfort, or togetherness.  No one stays together, and no one is attached.  There are no memories and no forever.

Look!  Utopians do not work, and Lowry demonstrates this truth.  The loss of individuality and uniqueness of each human being, and the loss of liberty and freedom to choose how you want to conduct your life, hinders imagination, opinions, and true and honest feelings, while limiting our opportunities and personal capabilities.  We lose the chance to experience all that makes us human.  

Even pain, disappointment, suffering, and death make up who we are.  We cannot truly experience the world the way it was made and designed when others control every aspect of it. When there is an overreaching central authority commanding our lives every moment, we cannot help ourselves, nor can we help our neighbors.

As farfetched as some of the ideas in The Giver seem, like government power over the climate, loss of colors, and the ability to transmit memories from one to another through touch, other ideas are real and in practice today, such as: infanticide, gender selection, and designer babies, euthanasia, self-assisted suicide, communes and free love movements, redistribution of wealth, overmedication or drugs for behavior modification, dumbing down of society (illiterate masses), and good ol' socialism and communism.

So this is only a small fraction of what I gained from reading The Giver.  I truly loved the message. But I am unsettled about the ending, and I wish I knew what happened to Jonas, the hero.  I want to know that he lived and that he was able to make a difference.  No, forget that.  (This is the problem with dystopian stories!)  I want to know that he survived and returned to lead a revolution to overcome and eliminate the oppressive stupidity that controlled and suppressed the communities, and that the people lived in freedom and liberty to choose their own outcomes forever!  And most of all, I want to believe that the fire of freedom burned continuously, and no one ever allowed that horrid way of thinking to surface again.

So, have you read The Giver?  What do you think happened to Jonas?

digital art by mercyerky


Anonymous said...

Most people don't know this but The Giver is the first book of a series (I believe) 4 books. I have only read Tue first one, but I've heard others say that the last book is also very good, if not better.

ebookclassics said...

Great review! I have been curious about this book and hope to read it this year. Are you going to see the movie? I laughed when you said you took the book to a birthday party.

Cleo said...

What a fantastic review, Ruth! I knew the basics of the book and have been wanting to read it forever. I believe that you've given me the push to do it! said...

I hated it for all the reasons you loved it. It was so disturbing and a character named Larissa. Ew. I see your point exactly!

Ruth said...

Yes, I learned that recently, so I definitely will read the other three. I heard also that the final book is the best.

Ruth said...

Thanks! I do want to see the movie, but I've been seeing tepid reviews for it, which is disappointing.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Cleo! Do read it. It's so short that you can read it in a few days in between your monster reads!

Ruth said...

I know, right? She had to be the old woman. I'd be disturbed, too.