Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Give a Little- A review of Lois Lowry’s The Giver

Dystopian literature is probably my all-time favorite genre. I even wrote my bachelor thesis on the subject- at first I wanted to prove that dystopian literature is a genre in its own right, separate from science fiction, but when I couldn’t find enough sources to back up my claim, I decided to focus on another aspect of the subgenre- and I was very pleased with the outcome. Lowry’s The Giver was one of the novels I used for my arguments. The story, published in 1993, featuring a young boy expected to carry an immense burden for a community that is unfeeling, still resonates with readers nowadays, making it a modern classic. More after the jump.

The giver focuses mainly on Jonas, a twelve year old boy living in a peaceful community of seeming perfection. Violence is mainly prohibited, as are wars.  However, there are also no choices. Everyone must do as they are told or risk the ultimate punishment of being released from the community. Jonas is apprehensively looking forward to the ceremony of twelve, a ritual in which the 12 year-olds of the community are given a task which will become their assignment within the community for the rest of their lives.  The assignments, ranging from instructors to the younger groups, to birthmother- an important assignment though not one many girls want to have.  Jonas is given perhaps the most important assignment of the entire community. He is to become the new receiver of memories, a job which entails being familiar with the entire past that has come before this peaceful era. The memories are to be given to him by the former receiver, who is now the giver. While Jonas is given wonderful memories, like Snow, Christmas and above all else, emotions like love, he also receives memories like war, genocide and pain. He has to endure these memories so that the rest of the community do not have too. Jonas starts to wonder if this is the best thing, not just for him, but for the people surrounding him.

Though it is mainly focused on teens and young adults (an allegory of growing up features in this book too) it is also a good book for adults to read. Lowry emphasizes the importance of shared history and the danger of suppressing it. Another point the novel makes is the absence of violence. Because emotions are not expressed within the community, the people are jaded as to the plight of others, which they do not see as a plight, but just an occurrence that will quickly resolve itself. The kids are pretty much brainwashed from an early age into conforming to the society’s ideals in a very ‘we are all equal’ sort of way.

 As far as dystopias go, Lowry’s version is in my opinion one of the worst (or best, depending how you look at it). Because the receiver is the only one who is actually aware of how life before the community used to be, he can confide about it with no one. Jonas tries to do so with the giver, but he is old and sees no way of changing the way of the people.  the novel, through its sameness, promotes diversity and understanding. Jonas tries to make his parents to understand, but they are so fixed into their ways that they don’t know what to make of him- another metaphor for the parents who just don’t understand what a kid growing up is going through. At less than 200 pages, the novel is pretty short for a dystopian story. It also reads fairly easy, but even so, it is very descriptive and most of the characters are rounded and adequately described. I haven’t read the other books which take place in the same universe, though I’m hoping to get to them soon.

 A note on the film; I’ve loved this book for a long time, and when I heard they were gonna make it into a movie, I was pretty psyched. That is, until I heard who was playing Jonas. Some 25-year-old guy named Brenton Thwaites. Now it’s not really the actor I’m not happy with, it’s the fact that he’s 25 years old. Jonas is supposed to be 12. He is on the verge of growing up yet still emotionally unstable and unprepared for the memories he receives. They’re probably going to up the Jonas’ age in the movie, which kinda ruins the entire narrative. I’m not one to rant about a movie that I haven’t even seen yet, but I have a feeling that this is gonna fuck with the story. In any case, Read the book before the movie comes out. I promise, you won’t regret it.

If you’ve read The Giver leave a comment about what you thought about it and what you think about the movie casting, or anything about the movie in general

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