Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

I realize “The Giver” by Lois Lowry has been around for a while, but I do not regret waiting until the age that I am now to read it (for more reasons than only being two years old when it was published in 1993). Many good things have been said about The Giver and the John Newbery Medal on the cover told me there must be more to it than I’ve been told. I bought a few books off of Amazon last month and got to this one yesterday. I stayed up until 4 o’clock this morning to finish it.

Just a note, if you haven’t read this book but plan too, this is your spoiler warning. I will be overall pretty vague and will not give away anything about the climax and falling action, so don’t take this as my summary or retelling. I am just going to highlight my personal points of interest and then editorialize at the end.

There is immediate adventure and wonder. An airplane crash and a voice over a loudspeaker. We come to find out, that the voice is customary and a thing the people of the community are used to. It is used to remind girls that their bows be neat, and passive aggressively call attention to the minor transgressions of students. It is a society of social expectation and ritual. Everyone has a singular birthday until they are “Twelve” then age doesn’t matter after that. No one celebrates an individual birthday. No one knows that the stuffed animals known as “comfort objects” truly depict an animal that once existed. No one knows pain. No one knows love. People are assigned families, jobs, and children. Only one male and one female per family unit, and they are named and the Naming ceremony.

It is very easy to catch on to the rules and norms of this society (Lowry does is great job of keeping it simple so that young minds can keep up, and yet so very interesting that experienced readers will stay interested). Soon into the story we meet Jonas, an Eleven nervous about becoming a Twelve, who has sister that is a Seven. The reason he is “apprehensive” has to do with his job placements which area assigned to the Twelves in December. It becomes clear that the community Jonas and his family are a part of is a socialist society. Everything is kept as equal and fair as possible. They call it “Sameness.” The Old, the bad, and young that are not developing on time are Released to a place known as Elsewhere.  Jonas, like some others, are curious about what Elsewhere is, and I bet many have guessed and been right about it before Jonas learns the sad and terrible truth; those that may cause trouble to society are put to death. It is something the community are very much oblivious too unless in the position to participate the ceremony. The truth is, “trouble” is everything from big to small that may set the society of kilter. Jonas’ Father is a Nurturer who cares for the babies before they are named. At one point in the story, he is concerned because one of the Birthmothers is pregnant with twin boys, and they only need one boy. That meant that one of them would have to be Released into Elsewhere. Jonas comes to find out that Father knew the whole time what to be “Released” meant, and that the very person whose duty was to care for the newborns also murdered the unwanted and subpar ones.

One element The Giver has that has played a part in several dystopian stories is the negative portrayal of birth. To be assigned the job as Birthmother was a very low job that entailed birthing three babies, then being sent to work until death. Pregnancy and any notion of where babies really come from is kept secret and considered a taboo subject in this society, and is controlled by a committee.

I recommend everyone take the time to read this amazing book. Above are several things from the story that really made in impact on my thoughts as I read, because I see it on our very own American soil.  A large amount of people feel as if it is up to the government to provide, as opposed to the individual to provide for themselves. If a badly timed and unwanted pregnancy happens, just abort the thing. Could your child possibly be born with a disability? Better abort that too, even if he already has a heartbeat and fingerprints. Are you too stressed out to work? Let’s talk about your feelings and give you a pill for that. Does something offend someone? Let’s make it illegal. Are there different religions? Perhaps we should support the one we are most afraid of and pretend that nothing else exists.

The Giver portrays a society in which sameness has been achieved and uniqueness and difference have become something that only applies to that fact that there are different jobs to perform. No color, no race, no deformities, no music. Anything that could offend anyone is gone. Once all opposition is gone and everything is one general system, what is truly left? We fear Elsewhere, when no one knows where it is. Is life worth living without opinions? Without color? Without music?

 Is life worth living without choice?

I leave off with my own solution: that we disagree peacefully. That we embody ourselves and our own beliefs and opinions, and embrace the opinions of others without letting a disagreement become a cause for murder. All lives matter on an individual and unique level, and that is what makes a community of different people so beautiful. Don’t ever think that the attempt to destroy a race or a belief system hasn’t happened before, and that there are not people trying to make it happen again.

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