Sameness In The Giver

What is "Sameness" in The Giver?

In The Giver, Sameness is the ideology under which Jonas's community operates. It is believed that the the community will be peaceful and stable through conformity, so the leaders enforce conformity through various means, such as causing all citizens to dress the same and have similar physical features.

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"Sameness" is the name given to the ideology practiced by the leaders of Jonas's community in its desire to create a utopian society. The principle essentially involves a system of covert oppression in which citizens are indoctrinated into believing that they are all the same and, therefore, equal. The purpose is to establish, through conformity, a peaceful and stable civilization that is free from all man's iniquities. The leaders believe that removing the individual's free will avoids the act of making wrong decisions. Furthermore, such a system is supposed to prevent prejudice, crime, and many other risks to ensure peace and harmony. For the system to succeed, the Elders have created rules that must be respected and strictly adhered to. 

The Elders are the overseers in this society. They are responsible for ensuring that every member of society maintains the principles adopted when Sameness was introduced. The ideology has been inculcated into society's consciousness through a system of genetic propaganda, manipulation, and brainwashing. To guarantee Sameness, the Elders control every aspect of each citizen's entire existence. There is no room for individuality, and emotions are suppressed through the compulsory use of drugs. When Jonas, for example, develops "stirrings," he is compelled to take pills regularly to quell what he feels. The education system propagates and encourages Sameness, and citizens of every age are carefully monitored and publicly admonished if they should break a rule or disobey an instruction. 

Advanced medical technology has enabled the rulers to suppress almost all of the citizens' natural and instinctual abilities. They cannot, for example, distinguish color or feel passion. Furthermore, extensive and consistent brainwashing has turned the population into unquestioning, obedient servants who follow every rule and obey, to the letter, every instruction. There is no freedom of choice. Citizens' lives are so regulated they do not even prepare their meals—these are delivered to their living quarters and everyone, presumably, follows the same diet. There are no relatives outside the nuclear family since the Elders determine spousal relationships and family constructs. Children are not biologically related to their parents or their siblings and never discover who their actual parents are. The Elders have developed a system whereby birth mothers are appointed in their roles. The Elders seem to have a supply of genetically engineered sperm cells (and probably ova too) that are used for conception. After birth, the infants are removed and taken care of in nurturing centers. The newborns are kept there until they are allocated to parents who qualify.

Furthermore, Sameness requires that language is used as a tool to manipulate and suppress. Citizens are encouraged to use language that does not convey deep feelings and "correctness of language" is consistently taught. Language must always be couched in neutral terms and should not be offensive or cynical. The use of a wrong word or phrase may result in admonition or sanction. References to death are couched in euphemistic phrases such as "going Elsewhere." Citizens who constantly break the rules, overstep the boundaries, or who do not fit in are...

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"released." Jonas later learns that release means execution by lethal injection when he witnesses his father "releasing" a twin. It is ironic that in a society where everyone is purportedly equal, weaker twins are executed.         

Further irony lies in the fact that Jonas and the Giver, who do not entirely fit the mold, are given the complicated task of keeping society's memories because of their extraordinary abilities, instead of being executed. The Elders have succeeded in suppressing all memory to ensure that citizens are not reminded of the past and cannot, therefore, make any comparisons to their current situation. 

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Sameness also refers to everyone in the community thinking and feeling the same things.  Intense and passionate emotions are absent in this place because they can often make us uncomfortable and cause discord between individuals who feel differently.  If everyone thinks the same way about everything, then there is never going to be any disagreement over basic ways of life, community values and priorities, government, community leadership, and so on.  It would certainly make life a great deal easier if everyone were brainwashed and programmed to think and feel alike because there would be no wars, no terrorism, no political fights, and no disagreement about anything.  However, diversity of opinion is lost as is the ability to feel wonderful, intense feelings.

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Sameness is total control over everything in order to make it the same.

The government in The Giver wants total control over everyone and everything.  They feel that it is necessary to keep everyone comfortable, and being comfortable is the most important thing to these people.

In addition to enforcing social rules to make sure everyone dresses alike, has the same haircut, and has only the job and family that the community elders decide they need.  However, the technological advances allow the community to avoid divergent hair colors and eye colors too.  They can even control the weather.

"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.” (Ch. 11, pp. 83-84)

The darker side of Sameness is that when people have to be the same, those who are different are targeted.  When identical twins are born, they are weighed and the lighter one is released, which means killed.  The community values avoiding confusion so much that it is willing to kill infants, but that is not common knowledge.  When Jonas realizes it, he is so upset that he makes plans to leave the community.

The sins that are done in the name of Sameness are a good example of why utopias often turn into dystopias.  A perfect world is not so perfect when you are killing babies in the name of keeping people comfortable.  Differences should be celebrated, not feared.  They are part of what makes us human. 

Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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Jonas's highly organized, structured community is founded on the principles of Sameness, which create a mundane, completely uniform society where individuality is nonexistent but citizens are comfortable, safe, and secure. Generations before Jonas was born, the ruling members of the community decided to convert to Sameness in order to establish a stable, highly regulated society. With the introduction of Sameness, the community's scientists successfully diminished sunlight, which removed the color from the community. The scientists also genetically altered the citizens to enhance uniformity throughout society and dramatically changed the natural landscape to make transportation easier and more efficient. They were also able to control the climate and completely altered the way humans naturally experience life.

The people responsible for upholding the principles of Sameness in Jonas's community are members of the Committee of Elders. The Committee of Elders has the authority to make every significant decision in each citizen's life, which eliminates individual choice and personal freedom. The committee determines birthrates, matches spouses, chooses each person's occupation, and decides when people should be released. Once Jonas becomes the Receiver of Memory, the Giver transmits memories from a time before Sameness, and Jonas becomes jaded with his mundane community. Jonas desires the power to express his individuality and wishes to enjoy the spontaneity of life, which no longer exists in his structured, stable community. Towards the end of the novel, Jonas successfully escapes his community in an attempt to transform his society for the better by eliminating Sameness.

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What is sameness in The Giver?

Sameness is the governing ideology of the community in The Giver. The general idea behind it seems to be that any kind of deviation from a socially acceptable norm is dangerous, a destabilizing force that undermines the cohesion of the community.

This doesn't only apply to social values, but also to weather conditions. Instead of accepting that the weather needs to change, the members of the community developed technology that allowed them to keep the weather exactly the same each day—no snow, storms, floods, or any other kind of natural phenomena to cause disruption.

The community has also used developments in genetic engineering to ensure that everyone has the same skin color. One gets the impression that differences in skin color once gave rise to social tension in this community, but instead of dealing with those tensions, the elders of the community figured out that the best way to deal with racial differences was to have just one race, to which everyone would belong.

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What is sameness in The Giver?

Sameness is never specifically defined, but it is used to describe many different aspects of the community in The Giver. It is exactly what it sounds like: everything is the same. The novel never states this explicitly, but it is implied that the ancestors of the current society changed everything at once so that it became the same. Here are some examples of sameness:

There are no hills; the land is completely flat.

The citizens don't see in color, only in black and white.

There is no weather.

Many animals do not exist, like hippos and bears. The citizens believe they are imaginary.

Children hit milestones—like bicycle riding, schoolwork, and physical development—at the same time.

Sameness is not worldwide, though. It exists in the surrounding communities, at least, but it is unclear how far it goes. After Jonas escapes, he bicycles far from the community. The farther away he gets, the less sameness he experiences. He pedals over hills and through snow.

Jonas objects to sameness in part because it limits his ability to make choices. He and the Giver talk about how choice doesn't matter with small things, like tunic color or toys, but it does with bigger things, like spouses and jobs. They agree that sameness is safer, but that answer doesn't satisfy either of them.

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What are some quotations about sameness that can be found in The Giver by Lois Lowry?

In Jonas's community in The Giver, efforts are made to reach "Sameness," which is supposed to guarantee that there can be no discrimination because there are no differences among people.

Those who have structured the Community have even tried to guarantee that there is no variation in nature:

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.

And hills, too," he added. "They made conveyance of good unwieldy . . . So—" He waved his hand, as if a gesture had caused hills to disappear. "Sameness," he concluded.

Instead of facing challenges, the community has decided to simply eliminate those obstacles; therefore, the land is equally level and the weather is completely predictable.

There is no racial variation in Jonas's society, either:

The Giver shook his head. "No, flesh isn't red. But it has red tones in it. There was a time, actually—you'll see this in the memories later—when flesh was many different colors. That was before we went to Sameness. Today flesh is all the same . . . ."

Of course, the only way to ensure that "flesh is all the same" is by removing the ability for humans to reproduce with whomever they wish. Instead, the community leaders orchestrate human reproduction, producing offspring with a much greater sense of outcome over things like skin color.

Long ago, people who lived in Jonas's society actually chose to relinquish those parts of their world that created differences:

Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences.

Jonas is appalled that people chose to willingly give up things like the ability to see colors and the presence of sunshine just to "gain control of many things." He is quick to assert that this was a poor decision.

Sameness robs people of the ability to make their own choices, which Jonas considers as he watches Gabriel:

But now that I can see colors, at least sometimes, I was just thinking: what if we could hold up things that were bright red, or bright yellow, and he could choose? Instead of Sameness.

Jonas's society is a well-organized place at least in part because no one ever has to make personal decisions. Their jobs, spouses, children, meals, and free time are all decided in order to benefit the society as a whole. Jonas recognizes the loss inherent in not having any freedom of choice, even as an infant.

When Jonas leaves his community, he encounters a world that isn't nearly as predictable:

All of it was new to him. After a life of Sameness and predictability, he was awed by the surprises that lay around each curve of the road. He slowed the bike again and again to look with wonder at wildflowers, to enjoy the throaty warble of a new bird nearby, or merely to watch the way wind shifted the leaves in the trees. During his twelve years in the community, he had never felt such simple moments of exquisite happiness.

There is beauty in diversity, and because Jonas's life has been ordered around Sameness, he recognizes the inherent brilliance in a world full of differences.

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