While I have been aware of The Giver, it wasn't a book that I sought out to read; I am not really a science fiction kind of girl. Even now, after reading it only once in a short period of time, I am not sure that I really understand it. So this blog is going to be more about my process of understanding the story, rather than a review.
The Giver is a story of a young boy who has reached The Ceremony of Twelve. He and all the other twelves will receive their Assignment or adult job in the community. Life in the community is perfect, words are selected precisely, rules are followed without question, and families are units meant to produce children that become good citizens. Jonas has been a model citizen and is selected to be the "Receiver of Memory" (p. 60). His new Assignment opens the door to a life that will be lived alone, and more importantly, new information that will change him and maybe even the whole community.
According to our textbook one of the important elements of a modern fantasy is the setting. An author must create a believable fantasy world with only his/her words. Usually this is done with rich language that invokes all of the senses. However I felt in The Giver that Lois Lowry used her words to do the opposite. Without flowery language she creates a fantasy world that was orderly and tidy, but it also lacked something that I couldn't put my finger on till the end of the book. When she is writing about Jonas' life in the Community, it's familiar to our own lives. He goes to school, plays with friends, and has a family. But there's a steady stream of odd concepts that, after a while, the reader starts accepting as part of a new society. Things like public apologies, the sharing of feelings, being a Nurturer, and young children learning interdependence stop sounding foreign after a while and they even seem to start sounding like things that might help our current society. In the beginning of the book she makes the Community feel like a wonderful place to live and work.
The Giver begins with Jonas, the main character, thinking about "The Ceremony of Twelve" which is the beginning of Jonas' life as an adult. He and the other twelves are looking forward to moving to a new part of their lives. Jonas is concerned about what his assignment will be even though he has some understanding of where others in his group will end up. At the ceremony Jonas is skipped as the assignments are passed out to his school mates. The Chief Elder then informs the audience that "Jonas has been selected to be our next Receiver of Memory." From this point on Jonas starts to become an outsider to his own community. He now has special privileges such as being able to ask any question from any citizen,no dream telling, he may lie, and strangely he may not ask for release. At this point I began to feel for Jonas; he immediately notices that his friends are pulling away and that his parents can't or won't answer his questions.
Once he meets the The Giver and begins his training, he finally has someone that can answer all of his questions. This made me wonder if Jonas was the only one with so many questions? Has he always been different from the rest of the community? As The Giver begins giving Jonas memories, Jonas takes on an a new awareness of his community and he begins to see things as they really are, the sameness. I think one of the hardest parts to read is when Jonas questions the process of "releasing" and watches his father on video with a newborn twin. With his new memories and feelings he begins to question everything about his life and world. At that point Jonas and The Giver begin to make a plan to help bring memories, feelings and color back to the community. Unfortunately the news that Gabriel, the baby that Jonas family had been raising, was going to be released, forces Jonas to act alone. Before the planned time, he kidnaps Gabriel and flees the Community searching for Elsewhere. I am really not sure if the book ends on a good note or a sad note, but I hope that Jonas was able to save himself, Gabriel, and the Community.
There are still numerous things that I didn't understand in The Giver. One thing is how Jonas talks about how "he had been frightened" (p. 2) by the strange plane, and is "apprehensive" (p. 4) about the upcoming "Ceremony of Twelve." How does he know about feelings? Is he special? Another thing I wondered about is why did Jonas, Gabriel, and The Giver have light eyes? Are they related? Does it give them special powers? Why wasn't it taken care of with "the Sameness." How can Jonas give memories to Gabriel to help him sleep, yet he can't pass them on to others? One thing I do know is that The Giver is a book that needs to be read and reread and discussed with others.