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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Giver Review (Warning: Spoilers)

I'm going to attempt to write a review on The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Elizabeth J. asked me to write one, so...yeah. This is my first review, so it's not going to turn out that great.

Alright, so first I'm going to copy and paste the plot written by Wikipedia.

The book's setting seems to be a peaceful, utopian community, where all possible steps are taken to eliminate pain or confusion. The people are almost always compliant; family units share their dreams and feelings on a daily basis to diffuse emotional buildup.
This society remains harmonious by assigning jobs to each individual according to a laborious evaluation of their skill, by matching up husbands and wives based on personality to balance out each other, and only allowing two children, one male and one female, per family unit. There is also a subtle theme of
technology having only a minimal role in society; throughout the book, it is taken for granted that Jonas's community is without such technologies as television, or radio, although computers are mentioned at one point and there is a two-way microphone/speaker system used for announcements and surveillance. Transportation is mostly limited to bicycles; however, cars and airplanes exist in small numbers for the main use of transporting food, possibly from other communities.
Lowry describes creating the pain-free world of
Jonas' Community in her Newbery Award speech:
I tried to make Jonas's world seem familiar, comfortable, and safe, and I tried to seduce the reader. I seduced myself along the way. It did feel good, that world. I got rid of all the things I fear and dislike; all the violence, poverty, prejudice and injustice, and I even threw in good manners as a way of life because I liked the idea of it. One child has pointed out, in a letter, that the people in Jonas's world didn't even have to do dishes. It was very, very tempting to leave it at that.[2]
As time progresses in the novel, however, it becomes clear that the society has lost contact with the ideas of family and love, at least in the "more complete" sense at which Lowry hints. Children are born to designated "Birthmothers" and then family units can apply for children. If the family unit applies for the maximum allowed number of two, it will always be one boy and one girl. This is to keep the genders even. After family units have served the purpose of raising the children in a stable environment, they cease to exist, the parents going to a communal housing facility for childless adults, and the children becoming involved in their work and starting monogenerational families of their own, forgetting their foster parents who are growing old. The community maintains this process using pills which suppress emotions, mainly romantic love, which they refer to as "Stirrings".
All the land near the Community and around the other, similar communities clustered about the nearby river has been flattened to aid
agriculture and transportation. A vaguely described system of weather control is used so that the weather remains constant. It is implied that genetic engineering has been used extensively to manipulate human beings so that they physically conform with Sameness.
The Community is run by a Council of Elders that assigns each 12-year-old the job he or she will perform for the rest of his or her life. People are bound by an extensive set of rules touching every aspect of life, which if violated would require a simple but somewhat ceremonious apology. In some cases, violating the rules is "winked at": older siblings invariably teach their younger brothers and sisters how to ride a
bicycle before the children are officially permitted to learn the skill. If a member of the community has committed serious infractions three times before, he or she may be punished by "release". "Release" is a procedure which is hinted at by the characters throughout the book. Originally, it is thought of as a process where the "released" is sent to live outside of the community, but still in a good place. Eventually, it is revealed to be a system of euthanasia through lethal injection, employed not only as punishment, but also to ensure a monotony of means by which death occurs. {When the elderly of the community reach a certain age, they, too, are given a lethal injection, and not permitted to die in the natural way. -Bekah}
The book is told from a third-person limited point of view. The protagonist, Jonas, is followed as he awaits the Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas lives in a standard family unit with his mother (a judge) and father (a "Nurturer"). He is selected to be "Receiver of Memory", because of his unusual "Capacity to See-Beyond", which is an ability to do something unusual, such as see color, which the other people cannot. The memories are images from the world as it existed before the time called Sameness, "back and back and back", things that no one else in Jonas's world remembers.
Through the Giver, who becomes his teacher and
surrogate grandfather, Jonas telepathically receives memories of things eliminated from his world: violence, sadness, and loss, as well as true love, beauty, joy, adventure, animals, and family. Having knowledge of these complex and powerful concepts alienates Jonas from his friends and family, as well as making him more cynical towards his previously sheltered life, as he often discusses with the Giver. When he experiences "Stirrings", he is told to take pills to suppress his emotions; he does it reluctantly but realizes that he necessarily enjoys them, namely because he has developed feelings for his friend Fiona. Eventually, these revelations prompt Jonas to seek to change the community and return emotion and meaning to the world. He and the Giver plan on doing this by having Jonas leave the community, which would cause all of the memories he was given to be released to the rest of the people, allowing them to feel the powerful emotions that Jonas and the Giver feel. Eventually, Jonas asks the Giver if he ever thinks about his own release. This conversation leads to watching the release of the smaller of a set of twin boys born that morning. Jonas watches in shock and horror as his father talks sweetly to the baby before giving the newborn a lethal injection, and then dumping the body down a garbage chute.
During the course of the novel, Jonas's family temporarily houses a baby named
Gabriel, because he is unable to sleep throughout the night and disturbs the other babies in the "Nurturing Center". Jonas learns that unlike the other people in his community, "Gabe" can receive memories from Jonas, which he uses to help calm the baby. Because Gabriel still cannot sleep through the night without crying after the extra year he was given to learn how to sleep soundly, he is now destined to be released. Desperate, Jonas flees the community with Gabe. Also, he was given the instructions from the Giver to flee, and release all the memories that he had stored to the rest of the community. At first, the escape seems successful, with all of the search planes finally giving up their search for Jonas. Soon, however, food runs out and they grow weak. Cold and hungry, Jonas and Gabe begin to lose hope, but then remembering the memory of sunshine Jonas was given, he uses it and regains strength. Jonas begins to lose hope the most, as he no longer cares about himself, but for Gabe's safety; it is here that he feels happy as he remembers his parents and sister, his friends and The Giver. Jonas and Gabriel cross a snow-covered hill in the dark and find a sled on top, which Jonas remembers from the first memory he ever received. He and Gabriel board the sled and go down the hill where they hear music coming from some houses.
The ending is ambiguous, with Jonas depicted as experiencing symptoms of
hypothermia. This leaves his and Gabriel's future unresolved. However, their survival is made apparent in Messenger, a sequel novel written much later.

A lengthy plot-overview and review by Wikipedia. :D

Alright, so yes, this community might suggest communism. Communism is "a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general." A utopia, basically. This community discourages individuality, originality, and emotion. There is no color, and throughout your whole life there in the community, you have no decisions to make. Your parents are assigned to you, your clothes are all the same so you do not have to choose every morning, your job is assigned, complete and meek obedience is expected at ALL times. That is just creepy to think about. There is so much freedom here where I live, America, that this community is just so alein to me. So that could be...I don't know, enough for you to put the book down. Maybe.

What I really love about The Giver is just Jonas himself. Jonas is one of the most ideal heroes that I've ever read about. He sacrifices his comfort and risks his life so that his people will have a chance to see these memories that he has been given, and know what they are missing. And his perseverence and toughness is just remarkable. I know that I wouldn't have been able to do what he did when he knew how free and wonderful creation could be, but had to be stuck in this horrible world instead. I would have been driven crazy.

This book is really awesome; I love it. It is one of my favorite books now. I highly recommend reading it.

Sorry, this was a lousy book review...hope it helped :D

2 replies:

Hannah said...

I told you, it's an AMAZING book! I read it twice in one day...^_^

Hannah

Josh S. said...

Hey, the only question I have for you is what is the point of putting it on your blog if it is on Wikipedia? If it was an original review, i would understand, but you just copied and pasted...POSER!!!
lol jk ;)...partially...

Josh

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