The Giver
Credit: Cliff Nielsen

The Giver book cover

The Giver by Lois Lowry

 Since many people seemed to be anticipating the release of the movie The Giver this year, I decided to read the book, because we all know that if a movie is based on a book, the book is (almost) always better. I may be one of the only people I know whose middle school or high school English class was not required to read The Giver. So I finally read it — and loved it. The plot was not what I'd expected it to be, because for the first time, I didn’t read about the plot of a book before buying it. I knew it was a children’s book, but always remembered the book cover with an old man on it, so I didn’t know what to expect. I really loved how quickly Lowry has the reader fall in love with Jonas, the main character. For those that don’t know, the book is about a twelve-year-old boy who lives in what seems to be a utopian world, but finds out that his “community” is not as amazing as it seems. 

**SPOILER ALERT: From here on, I will be writing about details in the book, so if you would rather not know, please do not read any further.**

This story really made me think about how much freedom I have, especially with choices I get to make in my life. It was also a great reminder that what some people perceive as “normal” is not what others perceive as “normal.” I can’t even imagine what I’d do if my career path was chosen for me and I ended up hating it, or if I always had to share my feelings and thoughts, knowing that the government was listening. I would have also probably freaked out if I was considered an adult at the age of twelve. The one part I would probably like is being paired of with a spouse, because it’s so a hard to find somebody that I click with on that level who meets all my…requirements. However, of course I know that it’s easy for me to say these things because Jonas’s community is different than what I am used to. 

And imagine a world without music or colors! I know that if we lived in Jonas’s community, we wouldn’t even know colors or music existed, but it’s still hard to think about.

The ending of the book – when Jonas escaped – made me so sad because Jonas was just a child in my eyes, and he took on the full responsibility of taking care of an infant (Gabriel), fighting tooth and nail to keep himself and Gabe alive. However, I liked the very ending when Jonas heard the music and saw the snow and Christmas decorations. I was wondering where a sled appeared from, and then wondered if he was hallucinating, or had died and gone to heaven? The thought of him and Gabe dying actually pains me, as I get attached to characters, so I like to think they found Elsewhere.

While discussing The Giver with my friend G, she stated that the book reminded her of God. We then began comparing the Giver himself to God. I do not consider myself a religious person, but G is very religious. This is what we came up with: 

• The Giver was the Receiver of Memory before he became the Giver, and with the role of Receiver came the responsibility of gaining wisdom – learning and knowing everything that he could about the past and present.
This meant knowing everything that everybody has ever gone through and felt, much the way that people believe God knows and feels.
• The Giver carries people’s burdens, just the way people believe God does.
• The Giver constantly has to make sure that the “right” thing is done, and has to keep an eye on the public.
• The Giver also cannot give his burden onto anybody else, and cannot escape or “be released.” The only relief that comes is the partial relief when he is passing on some memories to the new Receiver.

My friend then pointed out that in the story, the Elders can even control the Giver, and we began comparing this to the way our society controls how involved or uninvolved God is in our society. The Elders only call for the Giver when they need help, the way some people only pray when they need help.

Another great point my friend G made was that when the last Receiver failed, the community got all the burden (because they received all the memories) and the Giver had to help the community get back on track. G compared this to when something very bad happens in society and people all of a sudden ask where God was to stop the bad thing from happening – when society spends so much time removing him from their lives.

Also, I wondered why there were religious aspects to the story if there was no religion in the utopian communities. I understand that there was no religion because of Sameness, but names such and Jonas and Gabriel made me wonder about religion in the book. Christmas was also a focal point during a couple of chapters. There may be no significance to the names and the holiday, but I like to think Lowry specifically chose those names to make readers think.