Thursday, March 27, 2014
#18 [2014/CBR6] "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
The Giver follows the story of Jonas as he turns twelve years old in a world that has abolished pain and misery in exchange for shallow emotions, lack of knowledge, and lack of brilliance. This new world also has stifling rules that force equality and serenity. Jonas is chosen to be the next keeper of society's memories. As Jonas works with the previous keeper and learns more about his world and what he's missing, his perception changes. In the end, Jonas must decide whether to conform to the life he grew up in or reject it for hopefully something more.
The ability to avoid pain and misery seems wonderful at first. But what would you be willing to give up to avoid pain and misery: love, self determination, family, choice? It's an interesting question and encourages the reader to to think about the world in a different way. The theme reminded me a bit of the line from Six Feet Under when Peter Krause said something along the lines of: people die so we can appreciate life. Unfortunately in real life, in order to feel the good stuff, you have to feel the bad stuff, too.
I liked Jonas, I liked the story, and I liked some of the questions it brought to mind. The main problem I had was that I kept getting distracted by the details. I felt the questions brought up were mainly philosophical in nature and not particularly realistic. What freaked me out so much when I read The Handmaid's Tale is that I could almost see it happening in real life. Lowry's world, on the other hand, was more difficult to understand and contained many more unanswered questions. How did this world come about? Why was Jonas able to see color before his training? Why would memories stick with one person and travel the way they do? Wouldn't families start caring about each other after such close proximity, or were emotions bred out of them? ***SPOILER*** Why would that world not want twins? Isn't killing a healthy baby worse than having two people that look alike? It turns out that important people in Jonas's life are actually killers (his parents, his red-headed girlfriend--once she gets her job), why do they accept this without major issue? Again, have their emotions been bred out of them or is it fear of retaliation? Was it only knowledge that made Jonas different or something else? His eye color? Without understanding this and with the more mystical elements of magical memories transferred by touch and death, I never felt too attached.