on February 27, 2001
Length: 4 hours and 51 minutes
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December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man, the man called only the Giver, he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.
Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.
“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
The Giver tells the story of Jonas, an eleven-year old boy living in an ‘ideal’ dystopian society where everyone lives complacently without pain, fear or emotion of any kind. Babies are born to Birthmothers and then become assigned to family units. Children are given medication daily in order to repress their sexual urges. People are assigned spouses based on their compatibility with one another. Each individuals purpose in society is also assigned at the Ceremony of Twelve where they are told what their job will be for the rest of their living lives. It’s at this Ceremony when Jonas is informed that he is being given the honor of becoming the new Receiver of Memory, the sole holder of all community memories, including the painful memories of the past. The Giver, the old man that Jonas will be replacing as the Receiver of Memory, begins to transfer all of his memories straight to Jonas. From these memories, Jonas is able to see the flaws of his world and of it could be, a world with emotion and where people have the freedom to choose.
The Giver opens with the understanding that all members of this society are living in a Utopia as everyone is content and satisfied living in their impossibly ideal living conditions. No one questions this, it’s just become a fact of their lives. When Jonas turns twelve and is introduced to a vastly different version of his world, he at least begins to understand how far from perfect their society truly is. Everything is pre-determined with everyone living their lives akin to a robot doing only what they are told and what is expected of them. In that regards, I had a similar reaction when I read The Handmaid’s Tale about the scary possibility of how different life ‘could be’. With that read though, the world-building aspects were much more on point. The Giver had a complete lack of explanation when it came to how this society came to be. The only thing we as a reader are given is that in order to eliminate pain and suffering they had to remove/give up their memories. The end result was society didn’t spend time dwelling on past pains and their lack of memories meant they would never be repeated again. But how did this happen? How did they transfer all past memories to one single individual? It’s an incredibly interesting concept but I needed a little bit more detail for it all to make good solid sense. Adding to that, once Jonas is in possession of the memories and history of the society, he immediately begins to rebel against it all. The reasoning behind his immediate decision was sketchy at best and slightly unbelievable but I think for the reader (especially a young reader) it was a hard one to question since we already knew that the society was flawed and knew if we were in that situation we would also run far, far away from it.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time. Being a fan of dystopian I’ve come across too many books being compared to The Giver I had to see for myself whether these comparisons were accurate. My 13-year-old stepdaughter came home with it one day and told me about her class assigning it to read and a few days later after having finished it she praised it lavishly and recommended I read it so we could talk about it. Can’t say no to that. While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as she did, I think it’s an important novel and an interesting concept to consider. It’s eye-opening in the sense that it makes us realize in comparison just how many freedoms we personally have. The Giver is all about controlling thoughts and feelings, the censorship of emotions. Kind of ironic that it’s being censored/banned in our school systems, no?