Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Imagine living in a world where everything was perfect.  No worries about poverty, disease, war, or pain.  A world where adults are assigned a mate by the Elders, after careful studying and contemplation to ensure no divorce.  Children are assigned to a family after the child turns “One.”  The“family unit,” would be assigned one boy and one girl. The community is orderly and simple where people have a distinct place in society and have clear cut duties.  There are simple rules and everyone must obey them or they will be “released.”  There are no choices in this “perfect” world.
Each year of life shows some sort of developmental milestone until the child reaches the age of twelve.  At the age of twelve, the child becomes an adult and is assigned a career within the community.  They are given training and they work as an apprentice alongside their teacher.  Jonas, in this story, is assigned the receiver of Memories, a career that is most respected of the Elders. The current receiver becomes, The Giver. 
As Jonas, the Receiver of Memories, begins to work with the Giver, the story becomes more engaging.  We learn the truths about this “perfect” world.  The Giver initially passes on happy memories which encourage Jonas to come back and he is excited to learn more.  However, at some point the Giver had to also pass on memories of pain and suffering. Jonas learned about war, starvation, misery, and despair.  Jonas accepted these memories and began to question, which was something that would have been against the rules for all the other members in the community.  As Jonas began to question, he realized that the world he was living in was not perfect and in fact much of it was a lie.  After Jonas experiences love through a memory, he is convinced that the world he was living in must change.  People must experience joy and sadness, love and pain.  But how?  Jonas and the Giver develop a plan to change the world.  As a reader, we know this story takes place in a futuristic society that does not exist.  Yet, it still causes us to reflect and question our own values and beliefs.
At the end of the book I was wondering if Jonas and Gabriel were the Givers children.
 I was also wondering about the ending and I think it is all about interpretation, but do the children die at the end with a happy memory or do they survive?  I interpreted a happy ending and I found a quote from an interview with Lois Lowry about the ending.  She said, “I liked the ambiguity of the ending, but I always felt that there was optimism to it. It never occurred to me that people would believe that Jonas had died.”
A Newberry Medal winning book, The Giver by Lois Lowry has been challenged for a variety of reasons.  Some include its reference to euthanasia and suicide.  Others challenge the book because they don’t feel it is appropriate for young readers.  As with all books, parents and teachers need to think about books that they share with their young and make informed decisions about what is appropriate for certain age groups and their maturity level.  The Giver is a well written book that causes the reader to question and think.  It provides opportunities to have conversations about our world and why it is the way it is or how it might change for the better. 
In the  link below you can see the process that occurs when a book is challenged to be removed from the shelves of a school or school division.  The response from the author caused me to do some reflecting of my own.  I encourage you to check out this site and gain a deeper insight about the book and some of the concerns as to why it is banned, but also read the response from Lois Lowry.  Then ask yourself, do I trust my son, daughter, or student to think critically for themselves?  Have I done my part as a parent or teacher to instill values and beliefs?


  1. Oh. I didn't even think about Jonas being one of The Givers children. Do you think he knew, since he knew of his daughter?

  2. I also had not thought about Gabe and Jonas being the Giver's children. I suppose it would make sense if they were. I too thought the ending of the story was happy. It seems like one of those stories where the more you think about the logics of it, the less it makes sense.