04 January 2011

The Giver

My choice for "classic" this month--The Giver by Lois Lowry

Shockingly, this is my first time reading this book.  This book is ideal for a book club as it is extremely thought provoking.  However, I'm getting ahead of myself.  First, summary and then I'll deal with some of the questions that arise in the book.

In Jonas's world everything is provided--a comfortable home, food, transportation, crime is pretty much nonexistent (especially in our definition of crime), and everyone has their "place" or occupation determined by the counsel of Elders.  Running like clockwork, no poverty, no hunger, no pain.  Sounds great right?  Upon Jonas's twelfth year, he is designated as the Receiver of Memory, a honorable position.  He learns from the one that will become the former Receiver, and since he is now giving away his memories, he is dubbed The Giver.  Within one person, all the memories of the past are held.  He must suffer every emotion of the past and present, every memory that has ever  been, he must keep them all so that no one else in the community will have to bear those memories.  Jonas begins to realize that the life they are living is not Life, it is mere existence.  He will leave it all behind, escape his community, in order to leave his memories behind for them all, and hope that he makes to the Elsewhere, and hope that the memories left behind will bring real life to all he left behind.

Each time period throughout history has had it's times of turmoil.  There is always bad in the world.  How would it feel to live in a world where there was never bad?  Sounds great doesn't it.  No more starving children.  No more war.  No more neglect?  No more pain?  What person doesn't wish for that?  I can say that even I do sometimes, and then I remember. . .No bad without good.  No peace without war.  Everything must have it's opposite in order for anything to have real meaning at all.  One of the saddest points in the book is when Jonas's asks his "parents" if they love him.

'"Do you love me?"

There was an awkward silence for a moment.  Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!"

"What do you mean?" Jonas asked.  Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.

"Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete," his mother explained.'

This goes on a bit more, but could you imagine?  You may be without pain, but you would also be without love, without choice!!!  Your spouse would be found for you based on compatibility, you would take little pills that killed sexual desire so even if you are married, sex would be out of the equation.  Sure there would never be a divorce, but there would never be love either.  No love, no hate.  I believe that we often get bogged down in the bad, that we all too often forget that without the bitter there would be no sweet.  To understand and fully appreciate the good, we must have an understanding that there is something that is bad or else it simply is.  We would exist.  We would never live.

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopic
Grade Level:  4-9
Pages: 179

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