It’s my second time reading The Giver and again I am quite taken by the story. Here is a society in which every aspect of reality is controlled from the weather, to what people eat, to what they are allowed to think, for the most part.
The story opens with Jon, an observant boy who is about to turn twelve, the age at which he will receive his Assignment. He is anxious about it: Who will he be assigned to become? What role in the community will he be assigned to fulfill?
Opening the story with Jon gives us a sense of the type of society he lives in. Through his eyes, we are able to see how unnaturally structured the community is and how much the people’s lives are controlled by those in charge.
Everyone is expected to act the same and abide by the rules in the community. There is a three-strike policy and if a person breaks a rule a third time, he is “released” from the community. Sameness is of utmost importance and difference is not accepted. Those who may seem different must assimilate to the community’s practices or they will be “released.”
At the community’s Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas receives his assignment as the Receiver of Memory, an honored position in the community. For this position, Jonas will receive all the memories of the community, which is like the history of the community and the human race. Being the Receiver of Memory, Jonas is exempt from Sameness. He is allowed to be different. In being different, he is allowed to feel and experience emotion, something that other members of the community are unable to do. Until this moment, Jonas was unaware that he was prevented from experiencing emotions or being able to choose.
The Giver is not a novel filled with action and adventure. Instead, it is a novel that offers the chance for reflection on the type of society that we live in and the things we take for granted: our differences and the ability to experience emotion (love, pain, lust). The people in the community do not want to feel pain so they rid themselves of their memories of the past and the ability to see color, of the ability to feel.
I find the The Giver to be a powerful book and I enjoyed reading it. I like that it is told from a child’s point of view because this enables us to see the faults of the society through his innocence. As Jon goes about the community, we realize that it’s not as great as he seems to think it is. After several lessons with the Giver, Jon comes to this realization too. It is this realization that propels him to seek a way out.
The first time I read The Giver was probably at the beginning of high school or in middle school. I enjoyed the story then too but I had no idea that it was continued in other installments: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and the recently released, Son. At the time, I was drawn to Jon’s voice (as I am now) because it was a voice that I could relate to, that of a child. Now in my 20s, I understand Jon’s perspective and appreciate the freshness he brings to the story.
I am curious to know what happens to Jon so I plan to read the other books in the quartet. However, I fear that they will not affect me as much as The Giver did.
Quote from the book: “After a life of Sameness and predictability, he was awed by the surprises that lay beyond each curve of the road.”