What are some symbols in Lois Lowry's The Giver? What do they represent?

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Symbolism is when an object or person represents something more profound than what it actually is. There are a lot of interesting symbols in Lowry's The Giver . For example, the bicycles that nine-year-olds receive represent independence because they are allowed more freedom to choose where they go and how...

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Symbolism is when an object or person represents something more profound than what it actually is. There are a lot of interesting symbols in Lowry's The Giver. For example, the bicycles that nine-year-olds receive represent independence because they are allowed more freedom to choose where they go and how swiftly they get there. Hair ribbons are also removed for nine-year-old girls, which is symbolic of a transition from a little girl to an older, more mature one (18).

One major symbol that influences everyone in the community is the pill each person must take once they experience the Stirrings. This pill suppresses sensual desires and the temptation to prefer one person over another. When Jonas tells his mother about a dream he has about desiring Fiona, she decides that he is ready for the pills. Jonas is excited when he realizes he gets to take the pills because he doesn't understand what they do.

"Jonas brightened. He knew about the pills. His parents both took them each morning. . . Jonas felt oddly proud to have joined those who took the pills. For a moment, though, he remembered the dream again. The dream had felt pleasurable. Though the feelings were confused, he thought that he had liked the feelings that his mother had called Stirrings" (48-49).

Little does Jonas know the implications of this pill. The pill represents suppression of desires, which takes away the freedom to choose a mate. As a result, there are no biological families living together in the community. 

Another significant symbol is the color red. It is the first color that Jonas notices on an apple and in Fiona's hair. This color represents desire and choice because it is so bright and it is connected to Fiona, whom Jonas likes. The Giver helps Jonas to understand colors in chapter 12. Jonas finally makes the connection between colors and the freedom to choose something based on desire, or preference, in chapter 13 when he says the following:

"If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?" (123).

Unfortunately, the community chose to do away with colors and other things that might enable someone to make preferential choices in order to live under a system of Sameness. 

The most profound symbol that makes Sameness happen is the Receiver of Memory. The Receiver represents either a savior or a slave. For example, everyone says that being a Receiver is a great honor; but for the person selected to live that life, it's as if he is a slave to the community. For example, the Chief Elder praises Jonas for being selected as the Receiver as follows:

". . . the Receiver-in-training cannot be observed, cannot be modified. . . He is to be alone, apart, while he is prepared by the current Receiver for the job which is the most honored in our community" (77).

The Chief Elder also explains how much pain and suffering the Receiver must go through for this job:

"But you will be faced, now. . . with pain of a magnitude that none of us here can comprehend because it is beyond our experience. The Receiver himself was not able to describe it, only to remind us that you would be faced with it, only to remind us that you would be faced with it, that you would need immense courage" (79).

On the one hand, the Receiver saves the community from suffering deep emotional, mental and physical pain by holding the memories of the world; but on the other hand, he suffers for everyone and has no relief from the job. The Receiver, therefore, is a Christ-like figure because he must face the suffering alone in order to save the others from all the world's pain and suffering. 

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