“The Giver” a novel by Lois Lowry (1993), is an, engaging science fiction tale that provides the reader with examples of thought provoking ethical and moral quandaries. It is a novel geared to the young teenage reader but also kept me riveted. Assigning this novel as a class assignment would provide many opportunities for teachers and students to discuss values and morals.
The main protagonist is a young boy named Jonas, living in a utopian community, which, at first glance, seems like an ideal place to live. In this society each birthday celebration has its own distinct rights of passage and privileges. Each age group has distinct expectations of behavior and responsibilities to the community. Infractions of expectations carry extreme shame and might even lead to being “released to elsewhere” from the community. Jonas is a well-behaved young boy who follows the guidelines without thinking about them. We first meet Jonas when he is eleven and apprehensive about his upcoming 12th birthday. This birthday will determine what his life’s work will be within the community. The community is lead by a group of elders and it is the elders who determine what jobs each 12 year old will have. The children have no word or input into their jobs, they must accept whatever is decided for them. In his ceremony of twelve, Jonas is surprised to learn that he has been picked to be Receiver of Memories in training, a unique and prestigious position.
The community he belongs to is a community where everything is based on sameness and avoiding painful situations. This avoidance comes at the cost of freedom, individual differences and extreme environmental controls. There is no color, no weather changes and no hills in this world. To protect people from pain one person is elected to carry the memories of everyone, past and present, this is the job Jonas has been chosen for. The “Giver” is the current Receiver of Memories who needs to give them over to Jonas a little at a time. When Jonas is picked he is given instructions for his new position some of which astound him: he his exempted from rules governing rudeness and can lie!
Because of his unique position as Memory Receiver Jonas is exposed to color, pain, death, war and love. He realizes what the community has sacrificed to maintain pain free lives and how it limits choice and decision making by individuals. He asks what if someone could choose colors instead of the sameness? And decides that “what if they were allowed to choose their own mate and chose wrong?” Frightening! “We really have to protect people from wrong choices (p.98)” but still he questions the unfairness of the system and finds himself, for the first time, lying to his parents and breaking rules. Eventually he and the Giver decide that they must change things and give people in the community their memories. To do this Jonas will need to leave the community because it is the only way that his memories can be given to the...