Sameness In The Giver
What is "Sameness" in The Giver?
"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 "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.
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.
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.