The Giver begins a tale that takes Lois Lowry nine years to tell, and four short books. Written in 1993, It tells us of a dystopian society in which mediocrity and sameness are celebrated.
Individuality and success no longer exist. Everyone eats the same food, wears the same style of clothes, and every house is an exact replica. There is no color. Talk about sensory deprivation. Blandness and complete boredom for the people living there.
This society prevents anyone from being better than anyone else. Pride is not allowed. No one wins the game, and everyone receives a prize. It sounds a bit like Communism, maybe a lot like Communism. Maybe a little bit like education in the United States these days.
Maybe their society needed a little bit of Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison’s philosophy. He made his sons give back their participation awards. He wants his sons to get awards for winning, not for doing their best – Kudos to James Harrison.
The protagonist, Jonas, no last names in this society, has felt no emotions. He has felt no pain. These are not allowed. There is no love, compassion, or physical contact. Everyone is chemically neutered except for a few breeders. This society uses artificial insemination. His parents were assigned.
On the other hand there is also no violence, hatred or envy. No wants or desires anything, and if they do they are reprogrammed or “released.” Would anyone want to live in such a society?
The Giver won the Newberry Medal in 1994. Over 10 million copies have been sold, and it has been made into a movie. It is on middle school reading lists as well as challenged book lists.
It is one of the most controversial books of our time. The Giver was definitely written for middle school students, but the subject matter is a bit complicated. Many parents find the content a bit mature for their children. Some religions find it offensive. I wonder how many students will catch the deeper meaning underlying the story.
I like dystopian or apocalyptic books. They challenge the norms. They say this is where we’ll end up if society doesn’t change. But I have to wonder, does Lowry want a society like this or does she wish to avoid this kind of society? I think many people might want to live in such a society as long as they feel safe and secure.