Even though this is listed as a book for young adults (one that has been banned from many schools due to the undercurrent of sexual feelings that Jonas expresses), I believe that I would have had a hard time grasping the ideas in this book had I read it at a younger age. Yes, it is the story of a child, but the ideas that Lowry writes about are deep and vague. Only reading it as an adult do I see the points that are made and understand that even a "perfect" world is anything but perfect. To live in a Utopia, such as the town Lowry has created in the book, one must give up freedoms and natural human feelings and abilities - which doesn't sound at all like a perfect place to me.
I think that in many ways, Lowry is describing the way that our culture is gravitating - everyone is special. Everyone did a good job - Johnny's art project isn't any better than Suzy's because we don't want Suzy to feel bad. It actually reminds me of the scene in The Incredibles when Dash is discussing his desire to go out for the track team at school. His mom, Helen, is trying to explain why he can't do that and she basically describes the ideas in The Giver...
Dash: You always say 'Do your best', but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.
Points that I appreciated from The Giver would include: reminding the reader that it's okay to celebrate diversity, to acknowledge that people are different, that some are better than others at certain things, and to understand the sanctity of life - whether old or young. For example, I will never be competing in the Olympics as a track and field athlete or a speed skater, but God gave special gifts and abilities to other people to do just that. Rosa Parks finally stopped "fitting in" with what was expected and she stood up (or rather, sat down!) and stood out from the crowd.
On a more personal note, Jonas experiences various emotions when he finally realizes what "being released" means - basically euthanasia of of society members who cannot or are no longer "contributing" to society. I don't know about you, but I usually walk away from a conversation with an elderly person saying, "I hope when I'm their age I will be like that." No one is worthless to society - everyone has a purpose, a place, and potential. As a Christian, I look around and see people that God made as unique and beautiful images of Him - if He loves them, then I should too. Sometimes that's easier said than done, but it should still be done.
So there are my rather lengthy thoughts about The Giver. I feel like I stumbled over myself trying to explain it, but it's a complicated story in many ways (the ending??). I do recommend that if you haven't read it, you pick up a copy used or check out a copy from your local library. It's a quick read and I think it's worth your time.
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