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In another dystopian novel, Brave New World, John the Savage, who has been raised as people are in Huxley's twentieth century, has felt pain and sorrow and other emotions. After he comes to the New World, which he has, at first believed to be a marvelous world, he asks to be allowed to again experience human emotions because he realizes that one's happiness is proportional to one's suffering, and he is now miserable.
Because the family of Jonas and others have not experienced the fullness of conflicts and hardships, they are shallow--even inadequate and false--in their expression of feelings and their interpersonal relationships are harmed.
In Chapter 1, Jonas's family members obey the routine of discussing their feelings every night, but they use the carefully selected words of the society's vocabulary, and they quickly move from one sensation to another. For instance, Lily expresses her anger at the new child group who did not obey the rules; however, it is only moments later that after her father says a few words that her anger is dissipated.
Later, in the narrative after Jonas has received memories from the Giver, his realization that that his family has never known pain makes him feel "desperately lonely." Because they cannot know what emotions he experiences, he withholds from them many of his experiences with the Giver, lying "easily" about his new assignment; they, in turn, smile and "lie easily," also, making Jonas sense the falsity of their lives.
Without memories, choice becomes obsolete. Because the community has no memory of the past, they must have one of them who holds the memories for the others whenever they are needed in a crisis. Lacking the caution and wisdom that comes from experience, the others must have their lives controlled and protected by the society.
For instance, there is a "sameness" to everyone: Their eyes are all the same color, with only a rare aberration as in Jonas and Gabriel. The people cannot see colors so that no one's hair is prettier, no one's clothes more attractive, etc.; in this way there is little or no envy of other which could cause conflicts that could escalate into something very serious since people know nothing of war.
Without memories, people become desensitized.
Having no memory of their own pain or grief or elation, the people of Jonas's society cannot truly sympathize or empathize with others. Thus, it becomes possible for the society to "release" those who do not fit in or have become too old.
In Chapter 19, when Jonas witnesses his father in the act of releasing a baby, after having professed to his family how much he loves caring for babies--"He killed it! My father killed it!"--Jonas realizes that his father is so desensitized that he can give the baby a lethal injection without any qualms.
Without memories, people lose much of what makes them human: the experiences of the world, the experiences of a culture, the experiences of generations of a family, the knowledge of art and music. All of these experiences enrich the souls of people.
In Chapter 12, the Giver explains to Jonas,
"We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences.....We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others."
Then he smiled wryly. "You've come very quickly to that conclusion....Maybe your wisdom will come much more quickly than mine."
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