Imagine a perfect, pain-free world where everybody gets along in a blissful state of pleasant peacefulness. A world without war, where nobody breaks the rules, nobody hurts one another, and everybody is healthy, happy, and satisfied in life. Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody were pure, faultless, and constantly polite? Wouldn’t it be nice to never feel heartbreak, anger, stress, or any other unpleasant emotion?
Now imagine a world where everything is decided for you: What you wear, what you eat, what time you go to bed and wake up, what you do for a living; even who your partner is and who your children will be. Can you imagine if it was a rule to take a pill every day to make sure you didn’t feel anything? Would you enjoy a world where you are watched and your every action is recorded and noted from the moment you are born to the moment you are euthanized? A world where everything is in black and white and nothing exists outside of your community? These two worlds exist hand in hand in the journey of a boy, a community, and a world: Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
As you delve into The Giver, you learn of a community that abides by Sameness; climate control, color control, etc. The people, or more realistically, drones, have no memory or knowledge of the world before Sameness, and they know nothing of death; the term Elsewhere, an unknown, magical, peaceful place where the old and unfit for the community are sent, is used instead. Only one person in the entire community has memory of the previous world before Sameness—the Receiver of Memory.
As the children reach age 12, they are given their assignment—their career for the rest of their time. The Elders of the community, a board of select people, watch each resident closely to determine what assignment will suit them best.
The main character, Jonas, an intelligent, brave, special boy, is given the most important assignment of all—the new Receiver of Memory. As he begins his training, he meets with the old Receiver of Memory, who then becomes The Giver as he gives Jonas memories of the old world. Jonas discovers wonderful things, such as weather, colors, books, and love. However, Jonas must also carry the sorrow of poaching, war, and hunger with him. Through his training, Jonas realizes the importance of choosing and thinking for oneself.
One day, he finally observes that being sent Elsewhere really means to be euthanized. Jonas can no longer stand to live in the place he once called home, and he and The Giver devise a plan for him to escape and therefore release all his memories to the community of what the world once was.
The Giver is an emotional, eye-opening, beautifully told story by Lois Lowry. It is an easy, quick read for any age group and is a book I believe everyone should read. The Giver opens one’s eyes to what the world could be like, and makes one appreciate the freedoms in life we take for granted. This book teaches us that it is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to be imperfect, and it is beautiful to be human.
Read On is a new column by publishing assistant Catherine Stroh. She will be reviewing works of literature for the Town & Country Gazette on a monthly basis.