The quotes on this list are ten of the best in Lois Lowry’s oeuvre, looking into pain and sorrow, change, reality, war, and love.
Pain and Sorrow
Take pride in your pain. You are stronger than those who have none.
These two lines come from Gathering Blue and are spoken by Katrina, the main character, Kira’s mother. She referred to Kira’s leg disability, something that pains Kira while also placing her in danger. Kira remembered this moment with her mother soon after she passed away. She was finding it difficult to remain strong in the face of her loss and the life she had to fight for. Kira has to contend with her mother’s death and the fact that her village doesn’t value her life.
“It hurt a lot,” Jonas said, “but I’m glad you gave it to me. It was interesting. And now I understand better, what it meant, that there would be pain.” The man didn’t respond. He sat silently for a second.
These fairly mundane lines are in reference to a memory of sunburn that he recently received. As the Giver reflects on Jonas’s reaction, he also thinks about the future and the darker, far more violent memories that he’s going to have to turn over. The Giver understands the world in a way that Jonas can’t imagine at this moment. What Jonas sees as “pain” at this moment is nothing compared to what’s to come.
Overwhelmed by pain, he lay there in the fearsome stench for hours, listened to the men and animals die, and learned what warfare meant. Finally, when he knew that he could bear it no longer and would welcome death himself, he opened his eyes and was once again on the bed. The Giver looked away, as if he could not bear to see what he had done to Jonas. “Forgive me,” he said.
These moving lines come from an important passage of The Giver in which the Giver gives Jonas the memory of war. This is a shocking moment in the young boy’s life, one that he could not have prepared for. It is hard for readers to imagine the perceptive Jonas takes to this memory, knowing nothing of the true darkness humanity is capable of and then being exposed to it all at once. The Giver’s sorrow at the fact that he has to share it adds to the poignancy of the experience.
If I go with you, and together we take away all their protection from the memories, Jonas, the community will be left with no one to help them. They’ll be thrown into chaos. They’ll destroy themselves. I can’t go.
These lines are spoken by the Giver in The Giver, Lowry’s best-known novel. He is sharing his thoughts in regard to why he can’t escape the community with Jonas. He knows that someone has to stay to help those who will be shocked to the core by the truth of their lives. He has a great deal of compassion, despite his anger with the community.
“Thomas,’ she suggested,’ you and I? We’re the ones who will fill in the blank places. Maybe we can make it different.”
These lines also come from Gathering Blue, this time from Chapter 16. They are spoken by Kira to Thomas, who she was trying to encourage about the future. She felt hope that the two might be able to make a difference in the future of their world. They might be able to improve their corrupted society and come out the other side stronger.
Our cook was named Naomi, and she was also brown. Everything has a color, I remember thinking. I could not think of a single thing that had no color, except the water in my bath.
These lines come from Chapter 1 of The Silent Boy, a novel told from the perspective of Kathy Thatcher, a young girl who starts the novel seeking out a doctor’s life, like her father. She developed a friendship with Jacob, the silent boy the title refers to. In these lines, the speaker addresses race without realizing in some places and times it is/was something contentious. She’s completely innocent, no more interested in Naomi’s color than in the color of anything else.
They had found her out in the garden. That’s what they told Austin: that his mother had gone outside to pick some tomatoes for lunch, and when she looked down, she saw a lovely baby girl there.
These lines help convey Kathy’s experience with the world in The Silent Boy, specifically her understanding of how children are born. Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Bishop don’t want to traumatize Kathy or expose her to the reality of the world. Kathy is confused by their obfuscating. She’s well aware of what’s possible in the world and what’s not, a child coming from the garden is obvious out of the question for her.
That’s why they call you Seer. You see more than most.
These lines are found in Messenger, the third novel in Lowry’s The Giver quartet. Matty speaks to them in regard to his blind guardian. The old man is blind, but he sees far better and more acutely than anyone with sight. He isn’t swayed by someone’s appearance or actions. Instead, he has to focus on the smallest personality traits in order to judge someone or a situation.
War and Love
You will [see Ellen again], little one. You saved her life, after all. Someday you will find her again. Someday the war will end. All wars do.
These lines come from Number the Stars, Lois Lowry’s moving novel about a Danish family in the middle of World War II, fighting for their lives and fleeing concentration camps. The lines come from page 108, in which Uncle Henrik is explaining to Annemarie that one day she’ll be reunited with Ellen after the war. He’s aware of the true horror of war and what the Germans are willing to do to their enemies. Despite this, he’s able to maintain hope.
[Peter] had written a letter to them from prison the night before he was shot. It had said simply that he loved them, that he was not afraid, and that he was proud to have done what he could for his country and for the sake of all free people.
These lines are around the same point in the novel as the previous quote. They’re spoken by the narrator of the novel as they describe what Peter did during his lifetime. At the end of the novel, when it’s revealed that he was captured and executed, his bravery takes a new meaning. He sets an example for all the characters in the novel to follow. He made the ultimate sacrifice.