Monday, March 24, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry
I first read The Giver back when I was in high school. I believe I was in 11th grade and I remember thinking what a bizarre story it was. It was unlike anything I had ever read before. Re-reading recently it has made me feel no different.

Jonas lives in a community of the future that is "perfect" in that it lacks all pain and suffering. There is no hunger, disease, or fears, no crime or war, but there is also the lack of any real joys or pleasures of life. The community strives for equality or "sameness" as they call it, but that means that people don't have the freedom to choose a job, a home, or a spouse. Everything is decided for them, thus there is no such thing as feelings, or passion or any real human connections.

At the age of 12 everyone begins training for the job that was assigned to them, but when Jonas turns 12 he doesn't receive just any job, he gets assigned to be The Receiver of all memories, good and bad, from the past. The current Giver is the person who trains Jonas and teaches him about the pains of war and joys of love. As Jonas learns of the old way of life he has to decide whether he wants to continue living in the community he was born into or if he wants to seek out a life of feelings and emotions elsewhere.

This story is definitely thought provoking. It is meant to make you question your life and relationships and the social issues around the world. We often speak of hopes of a better world without pain and suffering, but what things would we have to give up for such a world? And how would we recognize joy without pain?

I found some parts of this book difficult to read. The practice of euthanasia and infanticide are part of the story and I was horrified by them. There is also mention of suicide. It is a little shocking that this is children's book and I can't imagine having read it at a younger age than 16 or 17 so it is not surprising that this book has been banned in some schools across the country. At the same time, I really like the book because it does make you question things that you've never thought of before. At just 179 pages you would not think this book would have that much of an impact, but it does. I highly recommend it. Plus I hear there's a movie coming out soon.

Until next time!