From Lois Lowry's The Giver, why are sharing of feelings, precision of language, and assignments of jobs so bad?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Giver is set in a dystopian society where a council of elders makes decisions for the whole community. People who are responsible for such enormous tasks as running a society must do everything they can to control everything. They strive to control everyone from the top decision maker down to the humble laborer. Some might call this micromanagement because if a government can control the thoughts, language, and actions of the individual, then more conformity and control will be the result. If conformity among individuals exists, then that creates a community with one mindset, and problems, even acts of crime, can be avoided. 

Sharing of Feelings - This is the way the community (or government) discovers and controls what people are thinking. Parents are ordered to redirect their children's thinking to conform with what the community wants. If a spouse were to share feelings that go against the community, then the other would probably be responsible for reporting him or her. The family units are set up platonically so familial bonds won't get in the way of community philosophy and behavior. Hence, the requirement to share feelings each night is merely a ploy to get citizens to check on each other's thinking or thought processes. In a way, the sharing time is like spying on each other.

"'Who wants to be the first tonight, for feelings?' Jonas's father asked, at the conclusion of their evening meal. It was one of the rituals, the evening telling of feelings. . . Their parents, of course, were part of the ritual; they, too, told their feelings each evening" (4-5).

Precision of Language - This is another way in which the community controls thought. It's fine to correct children's language in school so they speak correct grammar, but the deeper meaning of this practice is to get children to conform to ways of thinking in the community. However a community structures its words is how it will construct its thoughts as well. Using words such as "release" rather than "death" or "die" helps the community ease the tension associated with death while also creating confusion as to what it really is. If people are ignorant to the true meanings of words, such as "release," they won't cause a panic or organize protests when they hear about it happening. They start this practice for children early on, too, as shown in the following passage:

"Jonas was careful about language. Not like his friend, Asher, who talked too fast and mixed things up, scrambling words and phrases until they were barely recognizable and often very funny" (3).

Assignments of Jobs - This is the epitome of control because it takes away free choice and the ability to dream of doing something different. If people don't have dreams to chase, then they will become stagnant and won't question things. If people don't question what's going on around them, then the government can continue to do what they do best - lie to people. Granted, the elders do take into account the talents and interests of a person when making assignments. But in the end, it's really a form of control over the individual. While discussing what assignments he might get with his father, Jonas thinks the following:

"There was no way, really, to know in advance. It was a secret selection, made by the leaders of the community, the Committee of Elders, who took the responsibility so seriously that there were never even any jokes made about Assignments" (15).

Again, these three practices are ways to control the thoughts, language, behavior, and ultimately, the life of individuals. By doing so, people will live for the community as a whole and not for themselves as individuals. 

Read the study guide:
The Giver

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question