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Asher's mistakenly using the wrong word and being punished for it to the point that he stops talking demonstrates the community's relentless insistence that everyone be the same, and their complete lack of compassion.
As a toddler, Asher “always talked too fast and mixed up words” while he was trying to master precision of language (ch 7, p. 55). The community’s obsession with precision led to poor Asher being punished over and over again for saying the wrong word, to the point that he stopped talking altogether.
The community uses something called a Discipline Wand to smack children as a reprimand for misbehavior. As a three year old, little Asher really wanted his snack, but said “smack” instead.
But the mistake had been made. And precision of language was one of the most important tasks of small children. Asher had asked for a smack. (ch 7, p. 55)
At this point, “Asher whimpered, cringed, and corrected himself instantly” in a whisper. Yet Asher continued to make the same mistake. Eventually he was so nervous he didn’t say anything at all.
Eventually, for a period of time, Asher stopped talking altogether, when he was a Three. (ch 7, p. 55)
The fact that this story was shared when Asher was described demonstrates that the Elder thinks it is humorous and not despicable. Young Asher was never really able to fit in. Fitting in, saying the right thing, is so important to the community that they are willing to traumatize a child.
Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
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