The setting of The Giver is a dystopia in the future.
A dystopia is a place that is supposed to be perfect, but is actually repressive or abusive. The name comes from the word “utopia,” which means a perfect world. Jonas’s world may seem perfect at first, but it harbors dark secrets.
Setting is time and place, but it also involves customs and values. The setting is so important in this book that it is practically its own character. The events that happen here could never happen anywhere else.
We know that the story takes place in the future because they have technology we simply do not have. They have somehow eliminated color and completely controlled the weather and the landscape. It is our world though, because they use the same months and have some of the same basic structures. We have families, they have family units. Theirs are just artificial.
Jonas’s community is very restrictive. Every single choice is made for the citizens, down to the smallest detail. There is no color, for example, because the community prefers everything to be the same. This is a concept known as Sameness. Sameness extends to ensuring that everyone in the community follows strict rules of behavior, and has choices made for them.
When Jonas begins his training as Receiver of Memory, The Giver explains to him that the community gave up a lot in the name of Sameness.
"Climate Control. Snow made growing food difficult, limited the agricultural periods. And unpredictable weather made transportation almost impossible at times. It wasn't a practical thing, so it became obsolete when we went to Sameness. (Ch. 11)
The Giver also tells Jonas that the community got rid of hills, different skin tones, and a bunch of other things in the name of Sameness.
The community has strict requirements for behavior of all kinds. No one does anything that is against the rules. Rule-breaking has serious consequences. The community has something called release, which means lethal injection. It is used on more than just rule-breakers.
There were only two occasions of release which were not punishment. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we- have-done. (Ch. 1)
Release is terrible, but it is not the only abuse of human rights used by the community. All citizens have to take Stirrings pills from the onset of puberty. These pills are designed to prevent attraction between the sexes, but they prevent any kind of adult feelings.
As a result, no one in the community actually has emotions. The people are controlled through strict rules of language, rituals, and the Stirrings pills. This is why they do not complain or revolt. They do not realize what they are missing out on in life. Everyone is perfectly obedient.