Last month I joined up with Charlotte at The Daily Snapshot to become a part of the Bookclub Bloggers. The first book that was picked to discuss and review was The Giver, by Lois Lowry. I had heard of this book quite a while before I actually got my hands on a copy. I finally got the opportunity to read it when we were living in Indonesia and although I don't remember what my expectations of it were when I started reading, I do remember being surprised.
General Overview: The Giver tells the story of a "perfect" community. Marriages are arranged by the elders of the town, everyone is assigned their job based on their observed skills, and each couple can apply for two children to nurture - a boy and a girl. In The Giver, the focus of the story is on the child Jonas. He is an Eleven, soon to be a Twelve. When he becomes a Twelve, he will be assigned his life's work. He has a sister, Lily, who is a Seven, a mother-figure who is a Judge, and a father-figure who is a Nurturer - he raises the babies until they become Ones and are moved into a family unit. Got it? Basically, it's an engineered town. While there is a sense of freedom, no one is truly free - they are being watched and controlled. The children are given drugs to keep their sexual urges in check and feelings are suppressed. Everyone must be the same so that no one feels less important than any one else. The past is not remembered, the future is not thought of. In all of the community, only one person has the responsibility and ability to remember and feel - that person is the Receiver of Memory - the job that Jonas is chosen to do.
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.
All Amazon links are part of the Amazon Associates program, but all opinions are my own.
Thanks for participating! I like the quote from The Incredibles. I can see how society is leaning towards an un-diversified outlook, and I love how you make the connection from real life to the book.ReplyDelete
this is a great review!ReplyDelete
and i agree with you, i didn't feel at all like the society in the book was one that i would want to be in, even though it was "perfect." even when i read it back in middle school i found the whole idea very unsettling and disturbing and basically, very alien. as if no one can think for themselves. i guess that's the biggest thing for me, most of the other reviews talk about how they were lulled into thinking that it would be nice if everything was like that, but i felt the complete opposite from the very beginning!
oh that sounds like something i want to look out for and read. thanks!ReplyDelete
I like how you point to the sancticity of life - no matter of young and old. This really hurt reading in the book when it was revealed, what "releasing" truly meant.ReplyDelete
My grandmom suffers from dementia since years, but I wouldn't treat the world for her, since nothing can put me together as much as her unspoken love, when she strokes my hand and looks at me.
I love your comments, and I share your feelings about older people.ReplyDelete
Also, it never even OCCURRED to me that the controversy was related to his 'stirrings'. I always thought it was just the concept in general that was controversial.
Hey, I never thought about how our society is moving toward "homogeneity" when we let everybody "win". Nice insight.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by my blog!! I am lovin' your blog and you're not going to believe this...but my best friend's parents are so identical to your love story with your hubby it is crazy. They both went to Moody (years and years ago...they are both in their mid fifties now) and he grew up in Bolivia as an MK too (in the hills, so he says.) and met his wife at Moody. They've lived all over the world now and are currently missionaries and are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They're visiting here for a Missions Festival our church is having this weekend and I immediately asked them if they knew you (I wasn't sure if your hubby was his brother or something--it was that similar) They said they didn't know of you, but maybe they do and they don't even know it. :) Love your blog and love the Jane Austin quote too. Take care! :)
i like the incredibles quote. i'm also glad people are bringing up the sanctity of life that you touched on. that's a huge undercurrent of the story -- how can you value people at all, let alone equally, if you're willing to destroy them and fade their existence out of everyone's memory when they are no longer deemed worthy? thanks for participating!ReplyDelete
p.s. thanks for your comment! yes, it's a real, steel-boned corset. =)ReplyDelete
First off, your general overview was the most succinct, well-put summary I've seen yet of this book. Bravo!ReplyDelete
Secondly, I think at least some of the banning of this book is due to more that it questions the extent a society should have to control the lifestyle of it's inhabitants (euthanasia, assisted suicide, eugenics, same-sex marriage, seatbelt and drug laws, etc).
Third, GREAT point about how we all get told we're special in our societ. I hadn't made the connection between The Giver and how we all trophies for participation.
Ohhh, I have never seen that meme and looking forward to checking out other things on your site that are new to me.ReplyDelete
The Giver is one of my favorites and has been since it came out. I used to read it to my students when I was a classroom teacher and enjoyed the discussion.
Thanks for stopping by my blog and answering the 5QFriday questions last week.
Amy @ Missional Mama