The community in Lois Lowry's The Giver was intended to be a utopia of sorts, perfect, in control, without unpleasant memories, feelings or decisions; discuss whether or not the results of...

The community in Lois Lowry's The Giver was intended to be a utopia of sorts, perfect, in control, without unpleasant memories, feelings or decisions; discuss whether or not the results of these goals have created a desirable place to live.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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This novel seeks to explore one of life's most fundamental questions; can one experience joy, love and satisfaction in the absence of sorrow, hatred, and dissatisfaction?  This novel demonstrates what most people would probably agree to be true, that a world without sorrow, heartbreak, hatred and unhappiness on the surface might appear to be a desirable thing, but to rid of those things is to rid of the best life has to offer. 

One way this community has ended unhappiness is by "releasing" members before they become old and infirm; anyone who has ever cared for an aging relative would probably understand the feelings of sadness, helplessness, and loss that goes along with a loved one getting older and experiencing health problems.  In Jonas's community, to be released, while a great honor in the eyes of the community, is simply to be euthanized, probably not something most people would view as a strong selling point.

Another way this community has dealt with unpleasantness is by assigning roles to children as they get old enough to contribute to the community, thereby eliminating competition and supply and demand problems.  Every position the community needs is filled; there is no unemployment or confusion when a job has no applicants.  Jonas is assigned the role of the community's memories keeper; the Giver is the gentleman who has been assigned to hold the collective memories of everyone in the community so that only one person has to deal with the positive and negative emotions these memories might stir.  All history of the community is contained within the Giver's memory, thereby preventing people from accessing information which might cause them to feel unhappy or form conflicting opinions.   

Jonas gets additional insight into the community's eschewing emotion in an effort to maintain perfection when he asks his parents if they love him.  They remind him that "love" is too abstract a word to use, that he must maintain what is called "precision of language" because "our community can't function smoothly if people don't use precise language."  Their answer to him is not what he expected:  they tell him they "enjoy" his company and they "take pride" in his accomplishments, but they do not love anyone, and in fact, the word "love" has "become almost obsolete". 

This community would likely not be the average person's first choice of dwelling place, but the characters in the novel don't recognize the difference between "desirable" and "undesirable" anyway; things aren't good or bad, desirable or undesirable; they just are.  Only when Jonas begins experiencing things that have been kept from the greater community does he begin to see that there is a world far more interesting and colorful (albeit sometimes sad) than anything he would ever see in his community. 

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