Published 2014 by HarperCollins (first published 1993)
240 pages |
Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
~This review does contain spoilers~
“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”
Choices are what matter in the world, they are what make us human. Not just the act of making a choice, although this in itself is incredibly important, but it is the knowledge that you will have to live with the consequences of that choice that holds the greater significance. For once a choice is made, it has eliminated the possibility of other choices.
When Jonas turns twelve he is chosen to become the new Receiver of Memories. A highly honourable job, but a painful one. It will now be his role to provide the community with advice in times of uncertainty by drawing upon the memories of the past, but he must be trained first. And it is through this training that he begins to see the flaws in his seemingly perfect world.
The Giver has a long-lasting effect on your thoughts, entrapping you in the beauty of a tale that ensures you envy a society that survives without freedom. I found myself believing in the values placed in the community, despite how obscure they seemed. That a designated group of people had decided it was better to live a life without severe emotion, because it ensured peace, was rather mindboggiling perfect at the same time as it was incredibly imperfect. Lowry expertly ensures you as a reader see the sense in both realities.
Of course being a humanist I see the tragedy in such a world that survives without extreme emotion. It is without pain, anguish, hope and love that we live with the absence of our humanity. We don’t progress. For what reason do we have to change anything if we don’t have the desire for more? Which is a seemingly common human trait. Yes, as the community showed, there is nothing wrong with living a life without these emotions that drive humanity to do awfully but also great things, because it ensures that everyone is safe and well catered for. However I truly believe that the Elders were wrong in their assumptions that they could make a perfect world. The human race is not perfect, nor do we lead perfect lives. It is with the raw dismissal of anything that attaches us to someone else that we fall flat and I believe are then unable to define ourselves as human. We are after all the sum of others memories.
I marvelled at how Lowry emphasised the importance of language. Although we may believe simple concepts such as snow or sunshine are easily defined, to explain such things to others without the knowledge of the words we would then need to use to describe the particular term well, it would be rather difficult. Near impossible I would say.
It was incredibly fascinating to immerse myself into a world where a society that heavily emphasises the importance of precision of language, lives without realisation that they aren’t being as precise as they could be merely because they are lacking the knowledge to fully express themselves as individuals. This issue of individuality was another major thinking point. Since the community was incredibly well planned, down to the age that you would stop wearing hair ribbons and give up your comfort animal, there was not a range of individuality avaliable. Which questions the point to life if you are the same as everyone else. If you believe in what they believe, without exception. Despite the mundaneness in the sameness, it again provides little room for progression. Little room for those people who are true gifts to the world, not that everyone isn’t a gift but I believe you understand what I am saying, to excel. To change the world.
The ending did leave me with further questions, so I googled other opinions (as I tend to do) about the rather ambiguous events that happened in the final chapters. In my mind Jonas actually passed away with Gabriel in his arms. Which is a tragedy but it also still makes the ending hopeful. Hopeful in the sense that Jonas became everything that he had wished others would become. Being individuals with the ability to choose and to love, but it was also hopeful because we know that Jonas’s memories were returning to the community. Although the idea of the memories fading after you are a certain distance away from the community still feels a bit unexplained, however I accept this plot point as to only not pull apart a novel I loved.
Have you read this one? What did you think?