In The Giver, how are the community's rules related to ours?

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The community has a lot of rules.  Most of the rules are designed for the preservation of what the community calls Sameness.  They enforce proper behavior and prevent anyone from doing anything that will upset anyone.

Two Child Policies and Naming Limitations

The community has very carefully regulated family units.  Everyone is required to take birth control pills for what they call Stirrings.  This causes the citizens to stop caring about the opposite sex and prevents any unwanted pregnancies.  All children are created through genetic modification.  None of this is similar to our world, but there are some countries that do regulate the number of children a family can have.

"Lily," Mother reminded her, smiling, "you know the rules."

Two children--one male, one female--to each family unit. It was written very clearly in the rules. (Ch. 1)

In China, parents are allowed to have two children.  The law was previously requiring one child, but was changed in January 2016.  Although these families have their babies the old-fashioned way, it does demonstrate that limiting children is not unheard of in our world.  Families are also allowed to name their own children, but in some countries parents are limited in what they can name them.

Rules Made by Committee

There really isn’t much difference between the rules in Jonas’s community and the laws in ours.  Their rules are enforced as laws.  They are created by committees, just as ours are created by legislatures.

When something went to a committee for study, the people always joked about it. They said that the committee members would become Elders by the time the rule change was made. (Ch. 2)

We elect officials who create and pass laws in committees in our legislatures.  In Jonas’s community, there is a Receiver who keeps the community’s memories and advises on rule changes.  This is similar to our court system, because judges review significant documents and advise on whether or not laws should be changed.

Three Strikes and Lethal Injection

They even have the death penalty for those who break more serious rules.  In Jonas’s community, a person can be punished with release for serious rule-breaking, but also for breaking a rule three times.  Many states have a three strikes policy for laws.  If you break a law three times you face a more serious prison sentence.

Release is conducted by lethal injection in Jonas’s community.

His father turned and opened the cupboard. He took out a syringe and a small bottle. Very carefully he inserted the needle into the bottle and began to fill the syringe with a clear liquid. (Ch. 19)

Lethal injection is commonly used in our world as well.  The laws about lethal injection vary by state and country, but it is a commonly accepted humane method of capital punishment.

Rules Against Theft and Curfews

Jonas's rules against theft are not that different from ours.  Almost every culture has rules against theft.  Jonas's community has these too.  He risks serious punishment for taking food and a bicycle.

First, he had left the dwelling at night. A major transgression.  Second, he had robbed the community of food: a very serious crime, even though what he had taken was leftovers, set out on the dwelling doorsteps for collection. (Ch. 21)

Many communities in our world also have curfews.  A curfew is a law saying that people need to remain at home during certain hours, usually at night.  This is similar to Jonas's community's prohibition against leaving dwellings.


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