What is the conflict in Lois Lowry's The Giver, and how is it resolved?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major conflict of Lois Lowry's The Giver has to do with Jonas figuring out who or what is his antagonist. At first, it seems as though the ones who run the government are to blame for limiting the freedom of its citizens by controlling what they see, hear, and do with their lives. However, as Jonas trains with the Giver, he becomes aware of what really controls their lives--Sameness. Sameness is the antagonist; therefore, the conflict lies within it.

Sameness is the controlling factor in his life and his community. During the first memory that he receives in chapter 11, Jonas experiences sledding down a snowy hill. Afterward, he asks the Giver why they don't have snow in their lives. The Giver explains the following:

"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" (83-84).

Jonas soon learns that over past generations, the people of the community had made similar choices depending on what they were willing to sacrifice to achieve specific goals. For example, the ability for citizens to see colors was sacrificed long ago in order to take away personal preferences. If people don't prefer one person or object over another, then life without prejudices can be achieved. The consequence of a life without colors, though, is that people's abilities to choose are sacrificed. For instance, when Jonas sees and understands colors for the first time, he complains as follows:

"It isn't fair that nothing has color! . . . If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?" (97).

If limited freedom to choose isn't enough to cause Jonas to revolt against Sameness, the fact that "release" means to kill someone does. Jonas learns that Sameness also requires that the rate of births is controlled in order to avoid hunger and starvation. As a result, Nurturers like Jonas's father have an obligation to kill the smaller of a pair of twins to keep population numbers down. In chapter 19, the Giver shows Jonas a recording of his father injecting a lethal drug into a twin's head. Jonas is devastated. It is after this that he and the Giver decide to overthrow Sameness.

Because Sameness is maintained by a Receiver who stores all of the memories of the world inside of him, they decide to release these memories into the community. Once that happens, everyone in the community will be aware of the sacrifices that have been made to limit their freedoms and Sameness will end. Therefore, the conflict between Sameness and Jonas is resolved when he leaves the community, releases the memories into the community, and ends the controlling grip that Sameness has over the people.

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The Giver

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