Jonas lives in a society that has achieved equality with each other, true peace in the world, and is devoid of pain. When Jonas turns 12 and is given his work assignment, he learns he will be the new Receiver. Working with the Giver, Jonas learns that his community exists because they willingly gave up the memories that defined their humanity. Jonas must decide whether or not he can suffer alone as the Giver or do something to rescue the world around him.
For many in my area, The Giver was a book assigned in school. I remember plenty of my friends discussing the book and how good it was. However, because I took the Honors English courses (go figure), I never had The Giver on my required curriculum. I purchased a copy of the book a few weeks ago, and sat down to absorb it in one day.
I loved this novel. There are echos of other great novels in The Giver, notably Brave New World, but it stands well on its own. Lowry paints with such precision that at first, we like Jonas, can see no wrong with the society in which he lives. When scolded to use precise language, Lowry lets us in on the subtle shifts, the small avoidance of strong language and strong emotion. This avoidance of strong emotion leads us to the main issue for Jonas as he learns more of how the world used to be – that to be the same we sacrifice what makes us all uniquely human.
One of my favorite things about the novel was that Lowry does not only focus on the negative memories that Jonas experiences, but also the depth having those trials adds to his character. Jonas comes to the almost shocking conclusion that without pain, humans cannot experience joy. Without loss we cannot know love. He realizes this not long after he begins his training, and notices that of his friends and family, he is the only one who can really experience the true depth of these emotions.
Such a young boy being saddled with the weight of the world, quite literally, and seeing the real toll of sameness on society can move any reader. In the deft hands of Lowry, you are led to these conclusions through some of the most beautiful language, the most subtle shifts, and through no sensational happenings. There are no bombs dropped, no rousing speeches, and no wars started. Instead, The Giver lies rooted in strong characters that move their own story along.