In the novel, The Giver, Lois Lowry uses a community of “Sameness” to show how important individuality is. She wrote this book after her father had developed Alzheimer’s, so she understood how painful it was to live in a world without memory. Lois Lowry uses these circumstances to show how much we need humanity by taking it out of this story. In the novel, the characters have no real emotion. Every emotion they think they have is suppressed and not actually felt. The characters’ actions show how insensitive their way of thinking is. They take medicine to get rid of their “stirrings.” The Dad can kill a baby that is not up to standard with no emotion behind it. Their ultimate goal is complete Sameness. To the community, the word “equality” is defined as a result characteristic, where our society’s definition of equality means being equal in opportunity. The Giver illustrates the importance of the individual by creating a society in which everybody is the same, there is no color or emotion, and there are strict rules in the community so we can understand the effect that the absence of difference makes in people.
The attempted utopian community strives for ultimate “Sameness.” This sameness means the community officials have complete control over everyone and everything. The characters’ lives are based off of their age until 12 years old, then it is based off of their job. They all turn a year older at the same time at The Ceremonies. In the novel, it states “The little girl nodded and looked down at herself, at the jacket with its row of large buttons that designated her as a Seven. Fours, Fives, and Sixes all wore jackets that fastened down the back so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence”(6.6). This type of control is what eliminates difference. Everything is done logically with purpose, so there is no freedom to do what you please. The members of the community have no idea how miserable this lifestyle is because they have no memory of past society. All of these memories are given to one person as their job. Their title is “The Receiver of Memory.” This receiver holds the pain of the past and hope for the future. This person is the only true difference in the community of “Sameness.”
By taking away color and emotion, the community’s daily lives are completely suppressed. Jonas is different because he started to see something that he later discovered was the color red. He is exceptionally good at picking the right word to explain his emotion, none of which are strongly felt. There are details throughout the novel foreshadowing that Jonas is different. According to Elyse Lord in “Overview of The Giver,” “Critics and censors all agree that Jonas’s situation in The Giver is horrifying. Through a series of shocking events, he discovers that ‘release’ is actually murder, that his people literally have limited vision (they can only see in black and white, so do not notice racial differences, or colors of any kind), and that his people have no way to think for themselves, or to make decisions without the Giver’s help. (They have no memories of pain and pleasure, and they are sedated so as not to feel the ‘stirrings’ of their own desire.) Jonas is understandably concerned by these discoveries, especially when he learns that his step-brother Gabriel is going to be ‘released’ (killed) because he cries during the night. Jonas knows that he must save Gabriel, and he knows that he must do something to help his community to respond more creatively to the inevitable (and sometimes painful) variation of the human species.” The other members of the community can murder people aged from newborn to “elder” without feeling any type of emotion. Jonas and the Giver are the only ones that can feel true pain, but can also feel true happiness.
The rules are what amounted the community to dystopia. Some of these rules include that he/she must share their dreams in the morning, and share their feelings throughout the day each night, there are only 4 people allowed in each family, and they are assigned a job, life partner, and children. The author put these rules in place to create a dystopian setting, but the characters think it is perfect. According to Laurence Trudeau in “Children’s Lit Review”, “The very plot of the novel puts Jonas in conflict with adult society, and the society that constitutes his so-called family. That’s to say, the novel portrays a child as being critical of adult society. Never mind that Jonas’s final act of subversion is made in concert with an adult—The Giver himself. Here is a story about a child who discovers that the adult world has failed him, lied to him, tricked him as to what life actually is. This notion, that a child can discover the hypocrisy of adult culture, is often a lightning rod for those who wish to control the lives of young people.” Jonas sees these flaws in their community and he ultimately escapes out of the adult society that has controlled him for so long. Lowry states, “In creating that community, I had to figure out what their world would consist of and what they had been able to control. They were without war, poverty, crime, alcoholism, divorce-and without the troubling memories of those things. Only gradually did I begin to understand that I was not creating a utopia-but a dystopia. I slowly understood that I was writing about a group of people who had at some point in the past made collective choices and terrible sacrifices in order to achieve a level of comfort and security.” (Unpredictable Lowry Interview). Therefore, the author created an attempted utopia, with a character that defied the odds and saved a child’s life.
Lois Lowry’s writing has impacted the lives of many other people. In her introduction to the novel, she states, “One couple wrote to me about their autistic, selectively mute teenager, who had recently spoken to them for the first time- about The Giver, urging them to read it.” Her simple writing urges readers to grapple with their own thoughts. Although, while the book is inspiring others, there is a factor that inspired Lowry to write the book in the first place. Her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so she began to imagine a world with no memory. This developed into a complicated but creative dystopian novel. Lowry mentions that the “First Gulf War” had recently ended, and she states “We didn’t know there’d be another (war), but back then, mercifully, we didn’t know there would be another. Maybe a lot of us weren’t thinking about the future then. But I was. And I’m a writer.” So the author’s writing was affected by the occurences in her life. Lowry used her circumstances to create something beautiful.
In conclusion, The author demonstrates the importance of the individual and the quality of humanity throughout the novel by taking away the things that make human society so intricate. The Giver helps us appreciate our privileges, as in our freedom to think what we want, say what we want, and generally live our lives the way we prefer. The community of “Sameness” is logical, but not ethical. We live in a state of ethical reasoning, but we are not always logical. Killing a baby because it cries at night is unethical, but to be grateful for our lives, it is circumstances like these that we must read to fully understand how free we are. Our individuality is what makes us human.
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