Discuss the rules and norms of the society in The Giver from chapter 1–5. How do these rules and norms highlight the theme of individual versus society?

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In the first five chapters, readers are introduced to various rules that govern Jonas's society, all of which are designed to maintain order and "sameness." This is a dystopian novel, and Jonas's society focuses on structure, "sameness," and compliance. Here are some of the rules that are mentioned in the earliest chapters:

  • Pilots are forbidden from flying planes over the community.
  • People are "released" from the community for noncompliance with established rules.
  • Even children are expected to be incredibly precise with language.
  • Students are expected to make public apologies for breaking the rules, such as being late to school.
  • Children are expected to share their feelings with their parents at the conclusion of the evening meal.
  • There are no individual celebrations of birthdays. Instead, every child who was born within a year celebrates turning the next age at the same time, on the same day.
  • Children receive their names at the Ceremony of Ones.
  • Children are placed with families at the Ceremony of Ones; these are not their birthparents.
  • Every child receives a bicycle when he turns nine.
  • Children do not choose a career path; instead they receive a career assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve.
  • Children are required to spend time volunteering in their community.
  • Birthmothers have three pregnancies and are then assigned to being Laborers for the rest of their adult lives.
  • Food is delivered to homes, and there are rules forbidding citizens from "hoarding" it.
  • Bragging is forbidden.
  • The elderly live together in the House of the Old, separate from the rest of their community.
  • When adolescents have sexual dreams, they must report those dreams to their parents. They then receive "treatment" to prevent those feelings from growing or returning. These pills are taken until one moves into the House of the Old.

These rules demonstrate that the individual is not valued in Jonas's society. In fact, conforming to the established rules is so important that any attempt to demonstrate an independent spirit is seen as potentially dangerous and worthy of dismissal from the community entirely. Jonas's society functions fairly seamlessly because they have established rules that value uniformity. Individuals are expected to submit themselves to these rules without question, placing the safety and needs of the community above any sense of individual freedom or desire.

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