What could people do and what could people not do in the community and in Jonas's world in The Giver?
Jonas’s community was highly restrictive, and people did not have the right to make their own choices so that no one stands out.
Jonas lives in a world where every decision is made for him. He is told what to wear, where to go, when and what to eat, and how to spend his time. The whole community is designed around the concept of Sameness, which means that no stands out. If people stand out, it makes us uncomfortable.
The words “of course” appear about 38 times in the novel. This is because people take for granted that they know what is going to happen, and how people will react. Everyone follows the rules. The consequences for not doing so are great.
Jonas sighed. This evening he almost would have preferred to keep his feelings hidden. But it was, of course, against the rules. (ch 1, p. 9)
Jonas is concerned because he is about to turn 12, when he will be assigned his job for life. He is worried about what kind of job he’ll get. People in Jonas’s community are assigned jobs and begin training at 12. When they get old enough they apply for a spouse, and once they are matched they apply for two children—a boy and a girl. All decisions are made for them.
Breaking rules has serious consequences. Besides public shaming, individuals who break the rules three times are released—put to death by lethal injection.
At the beginning, Jonas's community seems like the perfect place. This is what makes it a dystopia. In order to create a perfect world, his people have taken all of the choices away from themselves and turned the world into a terrible place. They rid themselves of choice to avoid pain, but they ended up feeling nothing. Emotions are important, the bad with the good. If you cannot feel bad, you cannot feel good.
Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.