What are some negative points of view on Jonas's community in The Giver?

Negative points of view on Jonas's community in The Giver could apply to the excessive centralized control over community members and the concentration of power in the Chief Elder. Specific aspects include the separation of child-bearing from child-rearing and the mandatory execution or “release” of the elderly, those deemed unfit, and three-time transgressors.

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The society in The Giver is incredibly unique. While it functions more smoothly than any society in our world, its productivity and sense of calm come at a sacrifice. The people living in Jonas’s community do not realize what they live without, which makes their situation even more tragic. For example, consider when Jonas sees an apple and later his friend Fiona’s hair “change." Eventually the reader learns that Jonas actually saw the red color of these things the way people in our society would. Here we see that the people in Jonas’s community lack a lot of the beauty of our world. They do not see a range of colors, they do not experience the wonder that can accompany the changing of the seasons, and perhaps most awful of all—they do not know love.

Arguably one of the most poignant examples of the lack of emotion in Jonas’s community is when the Giver gives him the memory of a loving family. Consider how Jonas describes the sensation of the room with other people and a dog. He says he felt “warmth” and that it was a comforting experience. He then asks the Giver about family and his own grandparents and realizes that in his community there could never be that comforting sense of familial connection. Adults in his community apply to be members of a family unit, and thus families have become more of a unity of productivity rather than a network of loving relationships. This memory even motivates Jonas to ask his parents if they love him. They tell him that the word love has become “obsolete” and that he needs to be more precise. This experience really highlights how unfeeling and unaware the community is to some of real life’s unexplainable joys.

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The society that Jonas lives in has a lot of great things going for it. There is virtually no crime, no hate, no anger, and there is no sadness. The society is also an incredibly well-functioning society. Unemployment doesn't exist, and people are given jobs that they will both like and do well with. The weather is controlled, so something like a cataclysmic natural disaster can't wipe out people or structures either. There are a lot of reasons to like and admire Jonas's society; however, there are some negatives to it.

A lot of readers point out that Jonas's society has essentially gotten rid of choice. I don't completely agree with that. Yes, there are a lot of rules that govern when people are allowed to do certain things, but that isn't any different than present day society's rules about voting, gambling, and driving. I'm sure many parents also have rules about when a child is allowed to have a cell phone. The society does choose what somebody's career will be in, but that person did get to choose where most of their volunteer hours would go.

In my opinion, the single greatest negative to Jonas's society and taking on the Sameness is that emotions have been removed. I will freely admit that I don't like feeling sad, depressed, angry, and so on; however, I know what those feelings are, because I know what it is to feel happy. Conversely, if a person never experiences sadness, that person can't actually know what happiness feels like either. Jonas's society may be a functional society, but it is an emotionally dead society. Just because the people are not sad doesn't mean they are happy.

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Lois Lowry’s novel presents a society that has many negative characteristics. One main purpose of the community leaders is to represses free will and instill in its members an unthinking adherence to conformity. The Chief Elder and the Committee of Elders have almost total control over the community members’ lives, from birth to death. Family relationships, whether biological or social, have been devalued. The excessive centralized control extends to the ending of members’ lives, to which the euphemism of “release” is applied. Especially vulnerable for this mandatory release are the elderly people and those who break the rules three times.

The total, lifelong control is shown in the society’s birthing and child-rearing practices as well as its treatment of the elderly. Women have no right to choose regarding childbearing, and all adults’ libido is suppressed by drugs. Certain women are designated to bear children; they are categorically distinct from those who rear them in nuclear family units, in which other individuals are designated “nurturers.” At the end of life, elderly people are first segregated in separate living areas and then executed when the leaders decide they have no further contribution to make. Following the rules is paramount, and rebellious behavior can be fatal. Those who transgress the most important rules three times are also “released.”

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Like most dystopias, the world in which Jonas dwells is limited in many ways in order to eliminate conflict. In fact, there are several ways that the residents of this world have been dehumanized. 

  • Expression of emotions - There are only euphemistic words that people are allowed to use to express themselves. These words prevent the speaker from offending others; however, they in turn desensitize the individual to their own feelings as well as those of others. There is no art or music as a consequence.
  • Sexual feelings - In order to reduce the aggression of males and seductive actions of females and the other complications that come from hormones, the teens must take drugs that suppress this kind of sexual urge. Men and women do not copulate; instead, there are birth mothers.
  • Free Will - Children are uniform. At specific ages, girls wear hair ribbons and a certain style of hair, children learn to ride bicycles, and at the age of twelve have their life vocations assigned to them. When people grow old, or if they do not fit into the society, they are "released," which is euthanized. Parents are assigned children who are born of others.
  • Sensory Experiences - Jonas and the others no longer feel pain, extremes of temperature, illness, nausea, etc.  Their lives are so desensitized that they experience little or no change in their kinesthetic and tactile senses.

Only the Giver belongs to the world of natural human beings as he has the memory of all that has been removed from people. When Jonas reaches the hill with Gabriel as the run away, Jonas remembers the place that he sees and is genuinely happy in anticipation of all that he and Gabriel will soon experience. "Memories of joy flooded through him suddenly."

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