1994: The Giver (the utopian dilemma)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 4/5

Lois Lowry’s The Giver takes a look at how society can mold our individuality and the freedom to choose into a world where everything is equal and the same. In Jonas’ world, people don’t make choices; society makes their choices for them – including their career, marriage and children. It’s a cautionary tale, one that looks at how society’s rules can suppress humanity’s compassion and love for others.

The Giver provides a starting point for children who are reading their first dystopian novel. It starts off with a harmless utopian world, but as Jonas begins to open his eyes, the dystopia begins to make its way into his perfect utopian world as he learns that his society is more cruel than what he once thought. The Giver slowly builds to the climax; little pieces of the story are alluded to throughout the story, but it’s not until Jonas’ training that the real truth behind everything comes out.

The world is surprisingly simple; the rules are easy to understand, but the history of how they developed or got to this point is left ambiguous. You get assigned a job at the age of twelve and every family is given two children – a boy and a girl. And when the community no longer needs them – they are released. Before Jonas is assigned the job as the new Giver, he never really questions why things are the way they are, but as he learns how to feel different things – such as love, anger and fear – he learns how much he is truly missing in his world.

While it’s an introspective read, it’s also an isolating one. The story emphasizes Jonas’ isolation as he has no one to talk to about his training, except for the elder Giver, and how this estranges him from his friends and family. It’s hard to care for any of the secondary characters because of their Sameness; they all talk alike and believe the same things – which, though intentional, makes the story a bit bland since most of the action is just dialogue.

The Giver is a good read. There is a reason it’s known as one of the best dystopian young adult novels. It was interesting to reread this book to spot all the hints that were given about the absence of color and feelings, as well as other little things that you might have missed as a kid. Regardless, this book just lacks a certain something that could make it great – it lacks an edge or a sense of urgency that makes you actually worry for the main character’s dilemma. The characters are intentionally bland because of their Sameness, and as a result, it’s hard to latch onto any of the characters and feel for them. In a way, I guess it helps accentuate how it would be if you were actually immersed in their world and didn’t actually care for anyone else. Additionally, I hated the ending as a kid and I still hate the ending now for its ambiguity and open-endedness. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a must read in the dystopian genre.

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4 thoughts on “1994: The Giver (the utopian dilemma)

  1. Great review – I loved The Giver and the rest in the series. I think what you say about the characters being bland or hard to know is true, but maybe deliberate. I thought the rest of the books were excellent, and I especially enjoyed Son, her final book.

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