In The Giver, what are some advantages about having so many rules? What are some disadvantages?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In The Giver, there are many advantages to having all the rules, but the disadvantages outweigh them greatly in my opinion.  Your opinion could be different, but the author's message seems to be that so many rules harm the community and would harm any community. 

The rules are meant to protect people in a number of ways.  They provide the people of the community protection against having to make decisions, such as what kind of education or profession to choose or what mate to love and marry.  All of these decisions are made for the people in the community, and it could be a relief to a person to have these decisions made, since making choices like this is scary, really, with no guarantee that one is making the best choice. The rules ensure that everyone shares his or her feelings, which can be a benefit, since no one then endures any bottled up feelings.  It might be a good thing to live in an environment in which resentment or anger is freely aired and dealt with. The rules provide a community in perfect health, since anyone with a serious disability or who is very elderly is "released." The rules protect people from pain.  Aside from the Giver, whom Jonas is meant to replace, no one in the community experiences any pain at all, even in death.  We know this because Jonas' first experience of pain is when the Giver transmits his own memories, and Jonas says,"It hurt.... And now I understand better, what it meant, that there would be pain" (86).  So, in all, the rules are meant to provide a Utopian society, one in which everyone is protected from decision-making, prevented from harboring resentments or anger, assured a healthy and productive society, and free from all pain.  Without examining the disadvantages, it is difficult to say that these rules are not good for the community.

However, there are substantial disadvantages to the rules of the community, all disadvantages because they impinge on the individual freedoms of the community's members.  People cannot fully grow or learn if they do not make any of their own decisions because people learn by making mistakes.  A child who has no opportunity to make mistakes remains on some level always a child.  And while it might seem to be a good thing to have to share all of one's feelings, there are many good reasons not to. For one thing, people should have the privacy of their thoughts, the freedom to think as they please without having others judge those thoughts.  In The Giver, it is as bad as having mind police. For another, people have impulsive thoughts that are sometimes not very nice, but given enough time, they will get past those thoughts and learn impulse control. Thoughts that are expressed can have a way of taking on a life of their own.  A teen who is angry with his mother can think dreadful thoughts, but forcing him to express all them can only create hurt feelings.  A truth-telling society, while it may sound very good in theory, is a terrible idea, even if only to allow people to tell those little white lies to not hurt others' feelings.  Getting rid of people because they are disabled or unproductive leads to situations such as Hitler's Germany or the sterilization of mentally disabled people, as some states in the United States once did, not all that long ago.  A society should be judged by how it treats its most needy members, not praised for how it culls the herd to preserve its best.  Finally, pain is a part of life, necessary to teach us lessons, for example, not to put our hands on a hot stove or to handle carving knives carefully. Without pain, there is no learning. Furthermore, pain is nature's way of letting us know something is wrong. If we experience no pain, we do not know we have been injured or are sick in some way, which is really more frightening than a world free from pain.

So, all in all, while the rules protect the people in the community in many ways, they prevent the people from being fully human, which entails being able to make choices, having the privacy of their minds, treating the disabled and elderly as fellow humans, and experiencing pain, which teaches and warns. 

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