Honestly, I think The Giver
must have been the introduction to the dystopia/utopia/post-apocalyptic genre that have been raving these days, though it was published decades ago. I read this book as part of my curriculum in school just in the past six weeks, and we did some real deep thinking about this book and its climaxes and things. I have to be careful because I might be getting The Giver
mixed up with Anthem
, though. :P
Jonas lives in a perfect world -- a world that is an utopia. The Elders know everything about you; they decide your future and your job, but you don't get to choose either of them. By the age of twelve, you are eligible for the Ceremony -- a ceremony where training for your career starts. Jonas is then given the job of The Giver, but first, he must be The Receiver -- to receive and take the memories of the people so they don't have to suffer. And through the frail old Giver and the memories, Jonas realizes that there are much more to life than the Elders have told him.
First of all, I'd like to point out that this story almost follows the archetypal hero journey perfectly -- The Road of Trials, The Journey, The Return, etc. Almost totally and exactly, so if you've studied the patterns of old literature, the story might be a bit predictable. The Goods
- Did you know that the people in this so-called utopia are color blind? I'm not sure if this is spoilery, but if it is I advise you not to read the next few sentences ..... but when Jonas sees this flash of ... something
as he looks at an apple or at the crowd, he's almost completely overwhelmed and denies that he sees anything. It's color, though. He starts seeing little flashes of color -- one, which, the first one he sees is red. Red and blue and yellow and other colors and he gets so amazed by it that I completely think, "Wow, how we take our sight for granted!" Which we completely do!
- Jonas starts developing feelings for his friend Fiona. I forget what they're called, but the Elders use these pills to refrain from these emotions from boiling over so they are kept well under the radar. I thought that idea was pretty cool, even though the actual notion of it is not something that I particularly liked.
- Gabriel, the newborn that Jonas's father has to take care of, is someone Jonas is fond of. There is definitely some foreshadowing from the author of what this child might be after he grows up, and Jonas's feelings towards this child resemble something of like "love and care and kindness." And for someone who has lived twelve years without even knowing what the heck this emotion was, I thought that was pretty cool. The Bads
- Jonas is nice hero in this novel, though I don't completely understand his idea of why he left
at the end to not return. Love isn't allowed to talk about in his utopian society -- I think because they view love as a weakness -- so when he asks his adoptive parents if they love him, they reply with laughing and (I don't remember this much but I think) are-you-crazy looks that say, "No, of course not, Jonas! We don't love you, we like
you!" and I don't understand how "like" can even compare to "love." But, perhaps because the word has been so misused that they take "like" equivalent to "love," even when they don't know it. Just like we take the word "retarded" as an insult when originally it was a medical term. Anyway, I just couldn't understand how he left his sister and his parents like that -- though he has lived in a fog for much of his life, I can't understand how spending twelve years
with someone cannot, in some way or another, bring you close. That you can just get up and leave within a minute and not even think about the well-being of your family. I just ... I can't imagine it. I found that unrealistic.
I would've given this book probably a 4/5 stars, but because this book didn't really reel me in or anything, I though I should just give it a 3/5 stars. It's just ... the idea was definitely interesting and productive, but have you ever read a book where you know the synopsis is great but it just doesn't grip you? This was this story.