“The books that the world call immoral are the books that show the world its own shame,” famous author Oscar Wilde once said. In Lois Lowry’s controversial young adult novel The Giver, twelve-year-old protagonist Jonas lives in a dystopian world in which citizens in the Community have their career, spouse, and children picked for them by the Elders. The Community is dominated by the concept of Sameness where individuality, emotion, and color do not exist. In fact, everyone is assigned the same birthday. Once children turn the age of twelve, they are assigned their career path. Jonas learns that he is selected to become the Receiver of Memory, an honorary role, they call it. The Receiver is the person who holds all memories, good and bad, in order to maintain Sameness in the community; in short; the Receiver carries the burden of emotions and memories for everybody. The previous Receiver, who is now known as the Giver, transmits memories of pain and hope, loss and love to Jonas during his training, which changes the way Jonas views his Community. During the duration of his training, readers come across conflicts of euthanasia, sexuality, and suicide that parents and schools find too inappropriate and immoral for their children, leading The Giver to become number eleven on the American Library Association’s most challenged books of the 1990s (“Suicide Book Challenged in Schools”).
A lot of things in the world are considered inhumane. In the novel, there is a process known as “releasing.” It is not until later in the novel that Jonas watches a recorded tape of his father, a Nurturer, “releasing” the weaker of twin babies. Like other citizens, Jonas imagines “being released” as the pleasant notion of being transferred to a different community. Watching the video recording is the first time Jonas and the readers find out that the act of releasing is actually euthanasia.
“[Jonas’s] father began very carefully to direct the needle into the top of newchild’s forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly…The newchild, no longer crying, moved his arms and legs in a jerking motion…then he went still.” (Lowry 162-163)
Releasing is a central conflict in the novel; it is also causing conflict outside the novel. Most parents feel that their children should not be reading about something as cruel as euthanasia. Seen as murder and infanticide, a parent from New York objected to the novel’s obliteration of the feeble young and old folk (Baldassarro). Many more euthanasia-related cases have followed through the years, making euthanasia a top reason for banning the novel.
Violence is also a recurring conflict in the novel. Several scenes in the novel are quite graphic. For example, the Giver transmits a memory of an elephant being attacked by poachers. The elephants tusks are sawed off and the elephant is left to die. The elephant’s companion finds him and mourns for the loss, staying...