Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Giver

There is no way something like that could really happen, right?

That is the first thought while reading the dystopian classic, The Giver.

This tiny work first came on my radar through my daughter who had to read it for 7th grade. At that time, it was celebrating its 20th anniversary in publication and a movie premiere. The novel is presented as a young adult fiction, primarily read in middle school.  It's implied future, however, affects everyone if we lose sight to those things that make us uniquely human, uniquely individual.

When the novel opens, the protagonist, Jonah, is anticipating the Ceremony where each age range receives something significant to celebrate a new passage. The story is told through his experiences and his wonderings, limited as they are allowed to be, that is until he reaches the Ceremony of Twelves when the lifetime careers are given to each child.

In each family unit, there is order, structure, preditability, stability.

These things, elements of sameness, are presented as creating an environment more conducive to a civil society. It has been that way for generations and seemingly make for a safe life.

There is a questioning throughout the novel. A quest for uniqueness, albeit controlled. It is when Jonah discovers the truth of the Sameness and what makes that orderly community exist, that he takes the ultimate act of independence to defy an unnecessary blandness and elimination of even the most innocent of lives.

Without giving away the entire store, I would suggest that there were mirror themes of who belongs, what is a family, why must everything be neat and tidy, who would really want a world where everyone looks, dresses, and acts the same,and finally, why are the arts and seeing in color banned? As I read the short novel and pondered the existence of the sameness that threatens to engulf many of America's suburbs, I realized that elements of this story are indeed possible.

Do we really want to exist in a world without diversity of thought, ethnicity, interests, feelings, ages, languages, colors, and experiences? Is sameness a protective element? What about other places and other societies not existing in a bland gray? Will the children truly be the ones to lead to a possibility outside adult's fears of losing control?

I recommend this book for middle school to adult.

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