What is the purpose of lies in Lois Lowry's The Giver?  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lies allow one person or group to control another person or group. Lies are used for practical purposes to cover up, deflect, or misrepresent reality for a determined end. The whole point of having rules or laws is to keep the masses at bay by controlling them. If the masses ever found out that the rules were based on lies rather than for their protection and safety, then revolts and chaos could ensue. This is the reason that Jonas's government keeps the truth either completely away from people's thoughts or they camouflage it with words such as Release, Sameness, or Stirrings. The first time Jonas learns that lies are permitted in his community is when he reads the instructions for his appointment as the Receiver-in-Training. Three rules on his instructions are questionable where lies are concerned:

"3. From this moment you are exempted from rules governing rudeness. You may ask any question of any citizen and you will receive answers.

5. From this moment you are prohibited from dream-telling.

8. You may lie" (68).

The rules listed above either explicitly tell Jonas to lie in an effort to keep his training a secret from the community, or they exempt him from other rules in an effort to place him in "the know" and to keep others out. This unnerves Jonas because now he wonders who else has been given permission to lie. He now could ask questions whether or not they were rude, but then "he would have no way of knowing if the answer he received were true" (71).

Through Jonas's journey to become the new Receiver, he discovers truths that were either camouflaged by ambiguous wording or completely kept away from the knowledge of the citizens. He learns that the elders of his community keep and tell lies in an effort to keep their community revolving around Sameness. He also learns that there are casualties as a result for their lies--specifically new children who are "released" if they do not measure up to Sameness. This is enough to push Jonas over the edge and leads him to revolt against the elders and Sameness.

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The Giver

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