Although it has been the source of some controversy considering its darker plot points (such as suicide and euthanasia), it is undoubtedly one of the best children’s books written in the last fifty years.
The Giver is a novel that’s well-loved by many children, young adults, and even adult readers. Despite the fact that Lois Lowry wrote it with a younger audience in mind, it has captured the attention of readers of all ages. This is due to its relatively complex subject matter, the difficult issues it tackles, and the engaging plotline.
When I read this novel for the first time as a student in my middle school, I remember being surprised and pleased that we were allowed to discuss topics that in other places and in other years might’ve been off-limits. The Giver allows an access point for students and teachers, children and parents, to talk about death, free will, and the role of government or a governing body.
The novel presents the beauty and importance of the human condition, the good parts, and the bad parts. It also teaches a very important lesson, that one without the other would create a life that’s painful to endure.
For children, or for any reader for that matter, fears, scary memories, or ideas might seem like something better left unremembered. But, The Giver reminds us, as it reminded me, that the good comes with the bad. You can’t have one without the other. When the community took on the Sameness and everyone lost their collective memory of what love, joy, hate, and pain were, they lost what makes them human. Suddenly, murder and control were on the table, albeit by different names.
While stressing the importance of memory, I also found that The Giver emphasizes the importance of the past and our collective and personal histories. Through the role the Giver plays, the community ensures that the mistakes of the past don’t come back to haunt their present or future. He was meant to serve as a link to the past, the only person who remembered it. This reminded me of that age old saying, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately for this community, they had many other far more serious issues to deal with.
The Giver as a Dystopian Novel
One of the novel’s most appealing features is the structure of the society Jonas is fighting against. Dystopian fiction has been growing in popularity since the publication of Orwell’s 1984 and its widespread resurgence in the 21st century. These possible futures are incredibly popular among readers of all ages. I, along with most readers, enjoy imagining what my role would be in Jonas’s community. Would I, like Jonas, see past the facade the community presents? Would I have the strength to rebel against the community’s structure?
The complex web that Lowry weaves of rules, guidelines, and restrictions is also compelling. These features, such as the total lack of emotion and free will, seem outrageous and horrifying to outsiders, but to those inside the community that’s the only life they’ve known. Plus, one might find themselves noticing similarities between their world and our own.
The fact that Lowry is tapping into a longer tradition of dystopian novels is another reason why this book is appealing to a wide variety of readers. Those who find themselves engaged by books like We, A Brave New World, and Animal Farm will likely enjoy The Giver as well.
Relationships in The Giver
As the novel progresses, Jonas’s relationship with those around him changes. At first, he senses that he’s somewhat of an outsider, seeing, feeling, and noticing things that others don’t. He has the impulse to compliment a friend on their skill at a particular task but knows that would only be embarrassing and even taboo. In their world, Sameness and equality, to the extreme, is their defining principle. Jonas loves and admires his parents, especially his father, and even starts to feel desire towards one of his friends, something that he feels conflicted about. He wonders if these things are normal or if he is for some reason different than everyone else.
It’s not until the Giver starts to explain the nature of their world that he understands the emotions he’s feeling, the colors he’s seeing, and then finally, the truth about his father and what “releasing” really is. When the Giver shows Jonas a tape of his father releasing a child and disposing of the body, Jonas’s entire world shifts. It’s this moment, and then later when he finds out that Gabriel is going to be released, that makes him decide to leave his life behind and start a new one outside the community.
Jonas chooses to abandon the world he knows, including his parents and his sister. He shows a bravery and determination that’s remarkable for someone his age and should be inspiring for readers of all ages.
Concluding Scenes of The Giver
As I look back over each chapter of the novel, I find myself drawn to the concluding pages as Jonas climbs the hill with Gabriel and discovers the sled. The emotional connection between this moment, and the first, pure, joyful memory the Giver gave Jonas is a masterful choice on Lowry’s part. It creates a full circle connection between the moment that changed Jonas’s life and this new moment that marks the start of a new one.
The novel’s cliffhanger ending is also quite well suited for the rest of the storyline. Readers are left to wonder where exactly Jonas is sledding off too and to imagine what it would be like for a young boy, caring for a baby, to enter into this extraordinary world by himself. While some people might feel fear at the prospect, Jonas’s driving sense is excitement and relief. He knows there’s a new life out there waiting for him, and it is symbolized by the lights off in the distance.
The Give Book Review: Lowry's Young Adult Classic
Lasting Effect on Reader
The Giver Review
The Giver is a contemorary dystopian story written with young readers in mind. The novel won the Newbery Medal in 1994 and follows the story of Jonas, a twelve-year-old body who, through memories he receives from the Giver, learns the truth about the community he’s lived in all his life. He battles with this new knowledge and is eventually forced to make a decision that will change his life.
- Incredibly creative plotline.
- Many surprise twists and turns in the story.
- Interesting character development.
- Tough subject matter that may be difficult for some young readers.
- Unresolved ending for Jonas.
- Unresolved ending for the community and the Giver.