“The Giver” shows life without pain … or joy


The Giver might have been one of the first “dystopian” books out there – it examines life in a world where everything is so controlled and so censored that there is no true joy left in life. While the novel was written as a children’s book, it is definitely complex enough to hold the attention of young adults and adults as well. The concept of controlling the negatives in life is an appealing one until the reader realizes that without pain and mistakes and all of the things that happen to everyone in real life, there can also be no joy.

In the world that Jonas was born into, in everything is determined for you. Couples are paired together by the government. If a couple wants a child, they apply for one; if they are approved, they can raise one boy and one girl. Neither of these children are born to them: only breeders birth children, and they are not allowed to raise them. Everyone dresses the same, eats the same thing, and supports the government. When the children grow to the age of 12, they are assigned their career. When their career is over and their children are raised, they are moved in with other older, childless people until the government decides it is time for them to die.

In this society that author Lois Lowry has imagined, there are few decisions and little pain in life. If anyone varies form what is expected of them, they are reprimanded. If they do not fall into line, they are “released,” which, it turns out, is just a nice way of saying killed.

It’s not all bad: instant pain medication means a while with almost no physical pain. And, with the medication that everyone in the community receives once they hit puberty, there really isn’t much in the way of mental pain, either. No one has memories of before, and any bad memories from now are quickly and efficiently erased.

For the giver, though, it is not that easy. One man holds all of the memories for the entire community – both the wonderful ones and the horrible ones. He is to guide the community with the wisdom that the memories bring, but the burden of carrying them all is incredibly painful for him. And now, it is Jonas’s turn to take up the burden.

As Jonas takes on the memories of his community, he realizes how hypocritical the leaders of the community are as well as just how narrow the experiences they allow anyone to have are. Once he learns that being released is just another word for being killed, and that his own father is a part of this procedure, he knows that he has to do something to change things.

This novel will make readers realize, through Jonas’s experiences with The Giver, just how wonderful every human experience, both good and bad, are.