What is happening to the citizens of the community in The Giver?

The citizens in Jonas's community are completely controlled by the ruling Committee of Elders and experience no personal freedoms. Sameness also prevents them from experiencing life as originally intended, and they cannot exercise independence. The citizens live mundane, boring lives and blindly conform to their society's strict standards.

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The citizens of the community are under the total control of the Committee of Elders. The community values complete and utter Sameness, so its members lose essentially all individualism and mandates conforming to the society's exact standards. There are no colors, music, and the Elders even regulate the community's birth...

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The citizens of the community are under the total control of the Committee of Elders. The community values complete and utter Sameness, so its members lose essentially all individualism and mandates conforming to the society's exact standards. There are no colors, music, and the Elders even regulate the community's birth rate and how families are formed; matching couples and genetically engineering children to look like the other members of the society.

Though it sounds draconian and frightening, many of the citizens are quite content. They are safe and protected in the community, and the only thing that is expected of them is their passive obedience to the rule of the Elders, which the Elders have said is for the good of the society. However, there are also rather devastating impacts on the community's humanity; the people are essentially emotionless, and in their commitment to Sameness, lack humanity and individualism. Jonas's parents, for example, are indifferent toward him; incapable of showing affection because powerful emotions like love are absent from the community. The people of the community do not even know their own history; those memories are kept stored in secret by the Receiver, and the people of the community believe that they are simply too painful to see.

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Jonas's highly organized community is founded on the principles of Sameness, which completely eliminates independence, dramatically alters the natural environment and climate, and requires each citizen to conform to society's austere standards. Sameness also eliminates colors and music from the community, and the entire population has no individual rights. The citizens must obey the community's strict rules and conform or they will be released after their third transgression. Language is also highly regulated throughout society, and virtually every aspect of life is determined by the ruling Committee of Elders.

The Committee of Elders determines the community's birth rate, matches spouses, organizes family units, and decides each citizen's occupation. The citizens are expected to passively accept the committee's rulings and contribute to their society. Knowledge is also censored in Jonas's community, and the citizens have no memories of a past before Sameness. Although the citizens are comfortable and safe, they are ignorant, uniform, and obedient. They also lack genuine emotions and do not exercise humanity. Jonas's parents are even incapable of loving him because strong emotions do not exist in their community. As the community's Receiver, Jonas learns about a past before Sameness and recognizes that the citizens in his community are missing the most important elements of life by conforming to their society's oppressive culture. Overall, the citizens are being controlled by the Committee of Elders and oppressed by the principles of Sameness.

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The citizens of the community have every aspect of their lives controlled by Sameness.

In Jonas’s community, the world is very predictable.  Everyone in the community has to follow strict rules and there are no second chances.  Any citizen who breaks the rules, or makes a mistake, is released.

For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure. (Ch. 1)

Release is just one of the community’s ways of controlling its citizens.  There are also rules for everything, and rituals to control emotions.  Everyone participates in rituals designed to control either behavior or feelings.  Examples are, the evening telling of feelings and the morning telling of dreams.  These, as well as obligatory apologies for minor infractions and taking pills for “Stirrings” (sexual feelings), keep the community members in line.

The community also carefully creates family units. Family units are created by taking two adults and pairing them, and then assigning them two children.  They are assigned one boy and one girl, at different times.  The adults feel no love or affection for one another.  They are just assigned to raise the children.

Each of the babies are genetically engineered and come from birthmothers.  Somehow the scientists who ensure Sameness make sure that everyone in the community looks alike.  We know this because Jonas is one of very few people with light colored eyes, and Fiona is the only one with red hair.  The Giver explains:

"We've never completely mastered Sameness. I suppose the genetic scientists are still hard at work trying to work the kinks out. Hair like Fiona's must drive them crazy." (Ch. 12)

One other aspect of the community is that they have no sense of history.  This is part of Sameness.  All of the community’s memories are stored in The Receiver, who keeps them safely locked away.  This prevents anyone in the community from needing to feel the pain associated with those memories. 

Of course, there are some good things in those memories too, such as love, but it is safely stored away as well.  Anything that would cause anyone to feel emotions is locked away.  This protects the people from feeling any extreme emotions either way.  They have chosen to eliminate the good with the bad.

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