What is one man versus technology conflict in Lois Lowry's The Giver?

There are many instances of man versus technology in Lois Lowry's The Giver. Technology controls society in various forms to allow government to spy on everyone. This can be seen in using speakers to instruct and warn people throughout the day and using planes with heat-seeking devices that track those who try to escape. Science and technology allow the government to enforce Sameness, which keeps people blinded to truth.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Society in Lois Lowry’s The Giveris both enhanced and victimized by technology. While the community seems to be smoothly run so everyone achieves Sameness, it also is prevented from quality of life and the benefit of learning from the past.

Instead of progressing, this dystopian society utilizes science...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Society in Lois Lowry’s The Giver is both enhanced and victimized by technology. While the community seems to be smoothly run so everyone achieves Sameness, it also is prevented from quality of life and the benefit of learning from the past.

Instead of progressing, this dystopian society utilizes science and technology to keep humans at the same level by genetically engineering humans in an attempt to achieve perfection. For instance, newborns are expected to reach a certain weight and to sleep through the night at a certain point; those who do not are “labeled Inadequate and released from the community.” If twins are born, the smaller one is released. Jonas is horrified to learn that “released” means killed. The government cannot afford to have anyone in the community who is deemed inferior; it has used science and technology to create this image of perfection, and it will not accept anything less than what is deemed perfect.

The government controls all aspects of human life via science and technology. Meals are delivered to residents, and remains are picked up. Speakers are installed everywhere so that the government can stay inside people’s minds. Constant reminders of proper behavior are broadcast over the speakers. Technology allows the government to see everything people do. When Lily’s hair ribbons slip and she does not properly fix her hair, a general message is broadcast about the importance of females keeping their hair ribbons neatly tied. People do not need to think in this society. When an unidentified plane flies over the community, a message is broadcast that everyone must drop their bicycles and enter the nearest building for safety. The pilot had been a trainee and had made a wrong turn; the government uses the speakers to tell people that the pilot would be released. Thus, technology is used as a means of control and as a weapon of fear to keep everyone following the rules.

As the government has deemed emotions a danger, it has used science and technology to suppress feelings and memories in order to keep everyone the same and to spare people from pain and suffering. When Jonas begins to have feelings for Fiona, he is told to take a daily pill to suppress the “Stirrings.” Love is a dangerous emotion, as it might cause people to act against the rules. For instance, the Giver’s previous attempt to train a new Receiver is referred to as a failure which greatly impacted society. The Giver states that when Rosemary was “released,” her memories were spread through the community, and the people were unable to handle the emotions that came with those memories. The Giver says, “I was so devastated by my own grief at her loss, and my own feeling of failure, that I didn’t even try to help them through it. I was angry, too.”

In the interest of Sameness, technology is also used to suppress color. No one except the Giver, and eventually the Receiver, can perceive color. The Giver explains that people chose to give up many things, including color, in order to control life. Indeed, life is strictly coordinated, and there is no difference among people. They are used to seeing everything as one muted shade. Since no one is aware that color even exists, no one misses it. Jonas happens upon it as he is able to see beyond; he witnesses a shifting occur while looking at the apple and at Fiona’s hair. The Giver explains that “I suppose the genetic scientists are still hard at work trying to work the kinks out.” No matter how much the government tries to suppress the truth, they cannot cover everything. Fiona’s red hair is something the Elders cannot control.

When Jonas flees the community to save Gabriel, he worries that the government will pursue them. To protect them, he travels by night to make it harder for the searchers in planes to detect them. However, he notes that while the searchers cannot see the color of their skin or Gabriel’s golden hair, they have science and technology on their side. The planes are equipped with “heat-seeking devices which identify body warmth and would hone in on two humans huddled in shrubbery.” Technology is utilized to hunt people who are trying to escape.

Overall, Lowry depicts the dangers of pitting technology against humanity.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Man vs. Technology conflict that is present throughout the novel concerns Jonas's struggle to live in a society where he can authentically experience life as intended and prevent innocent, defenseless citizens from being released. Jonas's community is founded on the concepts of Sameness and scientists have genetically altered the citizens to appear the same and have limited senses. Advanced technology has also been utilized to alter the environment and landscape significantly to ensure the citizens' stability and safety. In addition to altering citizens' genes and substantially changing the environment, the Committee of Elders also requires each citizen of age to take pills to suppress the Stirrings and warrants the release of certain citizens.

Advanced technology plays a significant role in shaping Jonas's community to be completely comfortable, mundane, and safe. However, Jonas rebels against these changes in order to experience life as it was originally intended. Jonas wishes that everyone could see in color and hear music. He also desires to experience the natural environment and is completely opposed to lethally injecting certain citizens during the release ceremonies. Jonas's opposition to how the Committee of Elders utilizes technology to control and manipulate the environment and population is a prime example of a Man vs. Technology conflict in the story. Jonas ends up escaping his community in order to permanently alter his society's way of life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One type of technology that proves to be quite a conflict in Lois Lowry's The Giver is medical technology. Normally, when we think of technology, computers and TVs come to mind. We sometimes forget that medical advances are also a type of technology. There are two major types of medical technology that influence the plot and conflict for Jonas: the pill that suppresses the Stirrings and the injection used to Release (or kill) people. 

First, Jonas is introduced to the medicine (or pill) that suppresses the Stirrings after he has a vivid dream about his friend Fiona. Everyone must tell what they dreamed at breakfast time; so after Jonas tells his dream one morning, his mother knows that he has hit puberty and is ready for the pill. This pill not only suppresses sensual feelings, but it also takes away the desire for preference. For example, Jonas might want to date Fiona after having such a dream. He may even want to marry her one day; but in a world of Sameness, the community can't have preferential treatment towards any other person. That would upset the family units and the fact that free choice is undesirable. Thus, the Stirrings pill does much more than simply suppress sensual feelings.

Next, the injection that the community uses to Release people is deadly. Modern science does this with animals when it is time to "put them down," but we don't use it on people. For example, a veterinarian uses a sleeping aide first, then injects the animal with the deadly serum. Jonas's father, on the other hand, does not use a sleeping serum first, he simply injects the deadly medicine as follows:

"He took out a syringe and a small bottle. Very carefully he inserted the needle into the bottle and began to fill the syringe with a clear liquid. . . his father began very carefully to direct the needle into the top of a new child's forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly" (149).

This is the most significant use of medical technology in the book because it is the turning point for Jonas. It is Jonas vs. the community and their deadly medical technology after this. He can't bear the fact that killing babies is an approved practice! After seeing his father kill a baby, he plots to overthrow the community with the Giver's help.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team