What is the overall mood of the story The Giver by Lois Lowry?

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kat-draney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Giver is a dystopian novel written by Lois Lowry. Published in 1993, this instant classic was quickly awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1994.

Lois Lowry is renowned for her ability to write children's and young adult novels, and The Giver is certainly one of her most famous works.

The story of young Jonas and his struggle to fight the sameness of his community is a fictional tale with realistic implications. By highlighting everything that is wrong with a community where everything is the same, Lowry effectively suggests that a truly successful and happy community requires the acceptance of differences.

In order to achieve this goal, Lowry uses specific plot choices in order to create a tone of tension juxtaposed with a tone of unrealistic contentment.

The plot of the book itself centers around a 12-year-old boy who realizes that the utopia in which he lives is far from perfect. Thus, the first portion of the book is characterized by a tone of happiness; Jonas and his family experience day-to-day lives with hauntingly normal repetitions. They share their dreams over breakfast, and talk about their days over dinner. Jonas explains getting in trouble for taking an apple home because there is always enough food at home and at school, so he should not have a need to take the snack. Jonas has friends, and he has a sister who is normal and parents who are normal, and the reader begins to realize over time that everything is just a little too normal.

As Jonas prepares for his big ceremony of 12 where he will learn what elders chose for his lifelong career, we begin to recognize the extent to which the community is kept controlled. Children are not allowed to choose their own professions. Instead, a panel of older people observe them and their volunteering, and make decisions based upon their observations. While some positions such as "birth mother" are less highly regarded, all positions are necessary. We realize that children are assigned to parents, who are assigned to each other to be a "family." Everything in the community is controlled, from the landscape to the weather to hormones to the lack of ability to see colors.

Jonas' world is turned upside-down at the ceremony of 12 because he is selected to become the next receiver of memory. Suddenly, Jonas is different. He can see color, feel emotions, and ask improper questions. He is separated from the sameness because he is no longer the same as everyone else. This causes him to begin to question the society that he lives in. This second portion of the book is centered around his realization that the bland utopia he lived in for 12 years is just not quite right. While the book has no super-villains or evil men, the idea of the community and sameness itself is the antagonist. Jonas begins to consider fighting the system.

This suspense caused by his questioning of the system is the major tone of the majority of the novel. Jonas becomes an independent thinker, which is something he never dreamed of in his childhood. Instead of passively living his life, Jonas makes the decision to make a change to the community.  He leaves the town he has lived in his entire life in order to save a child from certain death, and to restore the memories to all of the people who have tried to tuck them away.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mood is a literary term used to describe the emotional landscape of a story. In other words, mood is the emotional impact on the reader.  You know how you have different moods?  Sometimes you are happy, and sometimes you are sad?  Books are the same way.

However, you asked about the OVERALL mood.  I think this is a different question.  While there are times when the mood of the book is suspenseful, such as during the plane incident, the ceremony, the baby’s death, and the end, there are also times when the mood is one of contentment.  We are given some sweet idyllic family scenes early on.  I think those happy scenes are far outweighed by the disturbing ones.

If I were to give this book an overall mood, it would be suspenseful.  Even when we are looking into glimpses of everyday life in Jonas’s world, it is so different from our own that we can’t help but wonder where everything is going.  If you add to that the long list of suspenseful incidents, including the ones I listed above but also the apple changing, the early memories, clues about Rosemary and the meaning of release, and Jonas and The Giver’s escape plan, it’s basically a page-turner!


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The Giver

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