Introduction to The Giver
The Giver is a dystopian story by Lois Lowry, an American writer. It first appeared in the United States in 1993 and became an instant hit on account of the unusual story it presents. The story comprises a boy, Jonas, who experiences disenchantment with the living style of his community based on the sameness and ordinariness through the community’s own decision-making process. Recognized quite later in life, The Giver won Newbery Medal in 1994. It was later adapted into a movie in 2014.
Summary of The Giver
The story starts with a 12 year old boy living in a seemingly ‘perfect’ community with no war, hatred, hunger, poverty and crime. The community is established to spread sameness among all of its members for justice and fair play. Jonas, the boy, sees that the community elder, the Chief Elder, has assigned a specific role to every infant he is going to assume in the future after he grows up. Jonas’ father works as a Nurturer, while his mother works in the Justice Department in the community. When his Ceremony of Twelve, a ceremony to allot roles to each 12-year old person, arrives, he is rather shocked but seeks no guidance from his parents. They assure him that the Elders never commit a mistake.
On that day, all of his classmates receive orders to stand in the order of their birthday dates during the ceremony presided over by the Chief Elder. Jonas becomes surprised when he comes to know about his assigned role of getting training as the Receiver of Memory, a high official, who sits beside the Chief Elder during ceremonies. Despite his initial jubilation for having status and position in the community later, he finds himself isolated at this stage even from his childhood friends. He gets further instructions about the secrecy of his job and training with orders not to reveal details even to his close family members.
The main task of the Receiver of Memory is that they should have the collective memory of his community not only of the present but also of the past generations. Once the training starts, he becomes happy that at least he is the Receiver of Memory, having everything at his fingertips tips. The current Receiver of Memory, ‘the Giver’, trains and instructs him how to store vast data in his mind. The very first lesson in memory retention techniques is of the sliding down which surprises him that such a simple task receives such as high confidentiality merely for the sake of sameness, a plan that involves that involves uniform geography, climate and discouraging individuality including skin color. Sameness involves eliminating choice, emotions which could possibly lead to happiness or pain in turn causing war-like situations. As the time passes, he learns about colors, human nature, war, and several other such things strange and bizarre to him. Although he tries to learn about Rosemary, the former student of the Giver but does not get any information about her.
Soon his father informs about his worry about a fragile child in his custody at the Nurturing Center. He has won permission to take him home to improve his health. Eventually, Gabriel, the same boy, grows into a healthy child. His pale eyes, like that of Jonas, attract his attention toward the boy who finds him similar to himself, having the capability of retaining memories. However, it also transpires to him that if Gabriel does not become strong, he will be “released” soon to reach Elsewhere, a concept equal to death and graveyard. The Community has rules to send all such persons including the former student, Rosemary, to Elsewhere where they live in peace.
The Giver further informs Jonas about such things through a video camera in which he sees his father, the Nurturer, sending two boys to Elsewhere through a poisonous injection. This video rather shocks his morality after watching his father killing two children. Also, his friend Fiona is being trained in the fine art of ‘released’. However, the argument of the Giver to justify this action falls on deaf ears. He tries to explain that his father and people like who are being trained for this job do not know this is evil since feeling are not part of the life. He informs him that Rosemary has released herself. The ensuing polemic wins Jonas a place in the heart of the Giver who acquiesces to his argument that they must do something to change the Community and join hands in this venture. Jonas’s idea is that he can do it by leaving the community early, providing the Giver an opportunity to help the people to manage memories.
Feeling the intense need for such an operation, the Giver devises a plan, helping Jonas escape the Community, showing the Community that he has been drowned. However, Jonas comes to know that Gabriel is going to be released prematurely at which he has to amend his plan and take Gabriel with him.
During the hard journey, Jonas ponders if he has made the right choice since the bike journey becomes even more difficult and experience starvation for the first time. But later realizes that if he had stayed back he’d have starved for the feelings and most importantly Gabriel would have not been alive. He dwells upon the risk of making a ‘choice’ has consequences but concludes that ‘physical hunger is less destructive than emotional one’. He feared for the life of Gabriel than his own expressing compassion, love which was never felt by his community.
After many hardships and travelling in the snow, both of them reach near Elsewhere where he comes across the same sled riding that he sees in his first experience as the Receiver of Memory Both ride a sled and see colorful lights with a Christmas tree, hears music for the first time and while experiencing the symptoms of hypothermia.
Major Themes in The Giver
- Individual and Freedom: The Giver demonstrates the theme of individuals and their freedom through the character of Jonas as well as Gabriel, the child that his father brings home to save from the likely release. Even Jonas experiences restrictions once his ceremony of twelve is held and he later comes to know that he is going to be the new Receiver of Memory after the departure of the Giver. When both realize their role in molding the Community into sameness, they plan to release the memories to revive the community. However, coincidently, Gabriel is released too early at which Jonas has to drop his plan and move ahead with his plan earlier than the fixed time. It shows that an individual has no freedom and choice of freedom except to merge with the community.
- Threats of Stability: As the Community requires stability, it is decided by the Chief Elders of all the communities that sameness must be applied at all levels. However, this sameness has its own risks; it does not make all the people same, it robs the people of their individual qualities, and it forces them to adapt to the sameness forced upon them. It happens with Jonas despite his being unable to follow it. He feels disgusted toward his father when he releases two kids to Elsewhere. When his plan fails and he releases his memories, the attempts of the sameness cause threat to the stability rather than vice versa.
- Human Emotion: The novel highlights the theme of human emotions through the character of the Nurturer, Jonas’s father, Jonas as well as Rosemary. When Jonas is inducted into the memory retention department as the Receiver of Memory by the Giver, he feels as if he has been alienated from his close and childhood friends. Almost the same goes with his father when he sees him through a video camera, showing him releasing two innocent kids with poisonous injections. He feels the same situation of having no human emotions in the Community when he hears the tale of the death of Rosemary, the daughter of the Giver.
- Memory and Wisdom: The Giver shows the relationship between memory and wisdom through the character of Jonas and his selection for being the Receiver of Memory. That is why the position of the Giver is significant, for the Committee of Elders turns to him to have the sane advice after he reviews the whole history where such instances might have caused disruption or havoc on account of the destabilizing roles such incidents might have played. It is stated that although Jonas has no wisdom having practical value for the Community. Yet as the retainer of the memory, he would be playing a positive role as the successor of the Giver. So, memory and wisdom have been shown going together.
- Dystopia: Despite having initial signs and symbols of building a utopia, the ultimate community that comes into existence is a dystopia where the craziness for the individual sameness takes not only the lives of individuals but also robs them of the natural human emotions. Jonas is surprised at his selection as well as forced isolation that he is not permitted to meet even his childhood friends. He is also horrified to learn that his father, the Nurturer, is involved in the murder of the kids not able to live for adaptation. He also feels for Rosemary who has committed suicide after she is unable to cope with the memory retention task. These developments have made the Community a dystopia instead of a utopia.
- Isolation: The novel also shows the theme of isolation through the Giver as well as Rosemary, for each of them experiences extreme isolation and becomes the victim of its consequential impacts. For example, the Giver experiences it as his own daughter has become the victim of his obsession with memory retention after she commits suicide. She herself experiences the torture from the looming isolation and resultant alienation. This is almost the same isolation that Jonas experiences and comes to the point to spread or release memories to make the Community return to its normality.
- Death: The theme of death occurs in the meanings of release from the Community that initially Jonas does not understand but becomes familiar with it during the anecdote of Pilot-in-Training. Soon he comes to know that release is used to make the Old people, kids, and those who do not fit into the Community, leave it for Elsewhere.
- Individual and Society: The novel shows the significance of individuals and society and their interdependence through Jonas, Rosemary, and Gabriel as well as the Community in which they live. The storyline, activities of Jonas, and death of Rosemary show that individuals suffer because of the demands of the Community to transform it into utopia but their interdependence continues.
- Rules: The novel shows the reverse use of rules not to facilitate individuals and society but to create a new experimental society based on individuals already trained to live in that society. This distortion of rules has been shown through the elders, their sameness, and Elsewhere.
Major Characters in The Giver
- Jonas: Jonas is the central character and the protagonist of the story. He’s12-year-old, who has to join the professional life of the Community by becoming an intern of the Giver as the Receiver of Memory. Yet he soon becomes disenchanted after reviewing two events: first his father’s act of sending two kids to Elsewhere by injecting them poison and second the death of Rosemary, the daughter of the Giver. His work of acquiring and keeping memories expands with his intimate relations with the Giver who also joins him to plan their release into Elsewhere after spreading their memories to make the Community properly humane. However, it happens that his father brings Gabriel who is to be released earlier. After this, he prematurely leaves the Community causing the release of memories earlier than the planned time after which both Jonas and Gabriel freezes to death. However, his perceptual power, his wisdom, and his intelligence won him laurels from the readers on account of his struggle to pull the Community out of the clutches of the autocratic dystopian government.
- The Giver: Despite his being a significant character, the Giver does not stand tall before the young and little Jonas with his ancientness likening to Tiresias of the Grecian plays. His worldly wisdom seems to surpass his memory acquisition job, the reason that he tolerates the suicide of his daughter, Rosemary, and continues working as the Giver. The weight of the memories of the entire Community and his responsibility of making decisions on the behalf of all makes him crumble down before Jonas after which both of them plan to release all the memories. It could be that he gives way to Jonas’s energetic efforts to bring transformation in the Community by making people independent and humane instead of making individuals the same.
- Father: Working as a Nurturer in the Community, Jonas’s father takes care of the toddlers and dedicates his life to them, yet he does not believe in love as he states it clearly to his wife. Although when releasing two kids with poisonous injections he does not feel anything, yet his concern for Gabriel makes his family members feel the transformation in him, though, he is to live in the system and perform as per his duties. So, his character stays flat until the end of the story.
- Mother: Jonas’s mother is an ambitious and career-oriented woman who has killed all of her emotions for her progress in the justice department where she punishes the rule-breakers of the Community. The training that she imparts to Jonas and other children shows her qualities akin to Lady Macbeth in resolution, yet she joins her son to deride the sentimentality of her husband when he fondles with his daughter, Lily. She becomes a model in society who wants societal ideals to be followed at every cost.
- Gabriel: The young toddler that the Nurturer intends to save at every cost, Gabriel becomes a lively child whom Jonas loves for his excellent memory and intelligence. As soon as he becomes dependent on Jonas for his sleep, his father resolves to send him to Elsewhere by releasing him. Although this premature action of his father disrupts Jonas’s plans, Gabriel causes a stir in society by releasing memories.
- Asher: Jonas’ childhood friend, Asher realizes others his discomfiture in such a Community due to the failure of the concept of Sameness. Although he does not seem capable of winning release from the Community, yet his foibles continue flabbergasting the people around him. Finally, both of them part ways after Jonas joins internship of the Giver and stops meeting him.
- Lily: Lily is Jonas’s sister shows great love for him nurtured by her father, the Nurturer when he fondles with her. She is a chatterbox and lively and takes care of Gabriel when her father brings him home.
- Fiona: Fiona has distinct red hair, and one for whom Jonas feels love. She joins a Caretaker to train herself to become one in the future to take care of the Old. As the story progresses, her character diminishes on account of the roles both of them choose to play.
- Rosemary: Rosemary is The Giver’s daughter, the incumbent Receiver of Memory, and commits suicide after she could not tolerate the pressure of the task.
- Chief Elder: The significance of the character of the Chief Elder lies in that she directs all the operations in the Community and decides the role allotted to every twelve-year-old teenager. This is called the Ceremony of Twelve that she presides to see how it goes along.
- Larissa: Her character is significant in the novel on account of her humor and chattiness. She informs Jonas about the release of Roberto.
Writing Style of The Giver
Lois Lowry has adopted a very euphemistic style in this novel, The Giver, using usual sentences but they are sometimes interspersed with run-on and broken sentences. The diction used in these sentences is twisted to suit the new context of the futuristic type of society where the Sameness has been implemented to achieve equality. Most of the diction is formal, though, at some places Lowry has used informal language. For literary devices, Lowry has relied on alliteration, consonance, metaphors, and similes.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in The Giver
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the story of Jonas, the new Giver, who has become the Receiver of Memory until he releases himself prematurely. The rising action occurs when he becomes an intern of the Giver. The falling action occurs when Gabriel is released prematurely, and the plan of Jonas and the Giver has to be unfolded before its time.
- Anaphora: The below examples of anaphora are given below,
i. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. (I)
ii. Though Jonas had only become a Five the year that they acquired Lily and earned her name, he remembered the excitement, the conversations at home, wondering about her: how she would look, who she would be, how she would fit into their established family unit. (2)
iii. His father smiled his gentle smile. (2)
iv. A silence fell over the room. They looked at each other. Finally his mother,
rising from the table, said, “You’ve been greatly honored, Jonas. Greatly
These examples show the repetitious use of “frightened”, “she would”, “smile” and “greatly honored.
- Allusions: The novel shows the use of allusions as given in the below sentences,
i. Jonas had casually picked up an apple from the basket where the snacks
were kept, and had thrown it to his friend. Asher had thrown it back, and they
had begun a simple game of catch. (3)
ii. There had been nothing special about it; it was an activity that he had performed countless times: throw, catch; throw, catch. It was effortless for Jonas, and even boring, though Asher enjoyed it, and playing catch was a required activity for Asher because it would improve his hand-eye coordination,
which was not up to standards. (3)
iii. Yes, I think I will,” Lily said. She knelt beside the basket. “What did you say
his name is? Gabriel? Hello, Gabriel,” she said in a singsong voice. Then she
giggled. “Ooops,” she whispered. “I think he’s asleep. (3)
These examples show the use of allusion such as Jonas as Johana of the Bible, the apple as the allusion of the first apple, and Gabriel, the allusion of the angel.
- Antagonist: As there is no person who could make life difficult for Jonas, society itself is the obstacle in the way of every individual. Therefore, society is the antagonist of the novel, The Giver.
- Conflict: The novel shows the internal conflict as well as external conflict. The external conflict is going on between Jonas and the Community, while the internal or mental conflict is going on in the mind of Jonas due to his obligations to his position and his moral awakening.
- Characters: The novel shows dynamic as well as static characters. Jonas, the young boy, is a dynamic character as he witnesses a considerable transformation in his behavior and actions. However, all other characters are static characters such as his father, mother, Larissa, Lily, and Gabriel.
- Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when Jonas sees that his father has killed the boys which means he has released them from the Community.
- Hyperbole: Here are two examples of hyperboles from the book,
i. For a moment he froze, consumed with despair. He didn’t have it, the whatever-she-had-said. (8)
ii. A silence fell over the room. They looked at each other. Finally his mother, rising from the table, said, “You’ve been greatly honored, Jonas. Greatly honored.” (9)
Both of these examples exaggerate things as a person does not actually freeze and that silence never actually falls.
- Imagery: The Giver’s imagery examples are given below,
i. Jonas shrugged. He followed them inside. But he had been startled by the
newchild’s eyes. Mirrors were rare in the community; they weren’t forbidden, but
there was no real need of them, and Jonas had simply never bothered to look at himself very often even when he found himself in a location where a mirror existed. Now, seeing the newchild and its expression, he was reminded that the light eyes were not only a rarity but gave the one who had them a certain look—
what was it? Depth, he decided; as if one were looking into the clear water of the
river, down to the bottom, where things might lurk which hadn’t been discovered
yet. He felt self-conscious, realizing that he, too, had that look.. (3)
ii. Jonas nodded. “But it wasn’t really the same. There was a tub, in the dream. But only one. And the real bathing room has rows and rows of them. But the room in the dream was warm and damp. And I had taken off my tunic, but hadn’t put on the smock, so my chest was bare. I was perspiring, because it was so warm. And Fiona was there, the way she was yesterday. (5)
iii. Jonas obeyed cheerfully. He closed his eyes, waiting, and felt the hands again; then he felt the warmth again, the sunshine again, coming from the sky of this other consciousness that was so new to him. This time, as he lay basking in the wonderful warmth, he felt the passage of time. His real self was aware that it was only a minute or two; but his other, memory-receiving self felt hours pass in the sun. His skin began to sting. Restlessly he moved one arm, bending it, and felt a sharp pain in the crease of his inner arm at the elbow. (10)
These examples show images of feelings, sight, movement, and color.
- Irony: The examples of irony are given in below sentences,
A committee was studying the idea. When something went to a committee for study, the people always joked about it. They said that the committee members would become Elders by the time the rule change was made. (2)
These sentences show the irony in the word joke that people used to cut at the committee e members.
- Metaphor: The examples of metaphors are given in the sentences below,
i. Many of the comfort objects, like Lily’s, were soft, stuffed, imaginary creatures. Jonas’s had been called a bear. (2)
ii. Sometimes he awoke with a feeling of fragments afloat in his sleep, but he couldn’t seem to grasp them and put them together into something worthy of telling at the ritual. (5)
iii. He sank back down into his chair, puzzled. (5)
iv. The old man shrugged and gave a short laugh. “No,” he told Jonas. “It’s a very
distant memory. That’s why it was so exhausting—I had to tug it forward from
many generations back. It was given to me when I was a new Receiver, and the
previous Receiver had to pull it through a long time period, too.” (10)
These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows objects as creatures, the second shows feelings as ducks, the third shows chair as a lake and the fourth shows memory compared to some trolley.
- Mood: The novel shows very light and happy mood in the beginning but turns to dispassionate, sad as well as tragic during different events in the story of Jonas.
- Motif: Most important motifs of The Giver, are overtness, vision and release or death.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated from a third person omniscient point of view.
- Paradox: The below sentences are the examples of paradox,
i. Jonas thought about it. The details were murky and vague. But the feelings were clear, and flooded him again now as he thought. (5)
ii. This time the hands didn’t become cold, but instead began to feel warm on his body. They moistened a little. The warmth spread, extending across his shoulders, up his neck, onto the side of his face. (10)
iii. “It’s just that I don’t know your name. I thought you were The Receiver, but
you say that now I’m The Receiver. So I don’t know what to call you.” The man had sat back down in the comfortable upholstered chair. He moved his shoulders around as if to ease away an aching sensation. He seemed terribly weary.
“Call me The Giver,” he told Jonas. (10)
These examples show paradoxes as the first one shows two contradictory ideas of vague and clear, the second shows cold and warm, while the third shows receiver and giver given side by side in these sentences.
- Personification: The below sentences are good examples of personifications,
i. “It took me many years. Maybe your wisdom will come much more quickly than mine.” (12)
ii. And the strongest memory that came was hunger. It came from many generations back. Centuries back. The population had gotten so big that hunger was everywhere. Excruciating hunger and starvation. It was followed by warfare. (13)
These examples show as if wisdom and memory have life and emotions of their own.
- Protagonist: The young boy, Jonas, is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his entry into the story and ends with his plans to release memories in the Community.
- Repetition: The examples of repetitions are given in the below sentences,
i. His father smiled his gentle smile. (2)
ii. Almost every citizen in the community had dark eyes. His parents did, and
Lily did, and so did all of his group members and friends. (3)
iii. There had been nothing special about it; it was an activity that he had performed countless times: throw, catch; throw, catch. (3)
iv. The prohibition of dream-telling, he thought, would not be a real problem. He dreamed so rarely that the dream-telling did not come easily to him anyway, and
he was glad to be excused from it. (9)
These examples show repetitions of different things and ideas such as of “gnawing”, “enjoyment” and “over and over.”
- Rhetorical Questions: The rhetorical questions are used at several places in the book. Two examples are given below,
i. “Yes, I think I will,” Lily said. She knelt beside the basket. “What did you say
his name is? Gabriel? Hello, Gabriel,” she said in a singsong voice. Then she
giggled. “Ooops,” she whispered. “I think he’s asleep. (3)
ii. Jonas was stunned. What would happen to his friendships? His mindless hours
playing ball, or riding his bike along the river? Those had been happy and vital
times for him. Were they to be completely taken from him, now? (9)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
- Setting: The setting of The Giver is a fictional distant society called the Community.
- Simile: The below sentences are examples of similes from the book,
i. Lily considered and shook her head. “I don’t know. They acted like … like…”
“Animals?” Jonas suggested. He laughed. (2)
ii. Look how tiny he is! And he has funny eyes like yours, Jonas!” Jonas glared at her. (3)
iii. Then, as the angle of incline lessened, as the mound—the hill—flattened, nearing the bottom, the sled’s forward motion slowed. (10)
iv. “It’s full of electrical impulses. It’s like a computer. If you stimulate one part of the brain with an electrode, it—” He stopped talking. He could see an odd look on The Giver’s face. (13)
These similes show that things have been compared directly such as the first shows their action like that of animals, the second shows a comparison of the eyes of two persons, the third one shows a comparison of the sled and the hill, and the third one shows the comparison of electrical signals with a computer.