What type of conflict is the plot in The Giver? Explain.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main conflict is a character vs. society conflict.

The Giver is a dystopia.  That means that the central conflict is a character vs. society conflict.  In a character vs. society conflict, the characters are struggling against the forces of their society itself.  They may learn things about their society that they find unacceptable, and decide to contradict or fail to conform to society’s mandates.  Sometimes they decide to openly rebel against their society, which can be very dangerous.  All of these are true in The Giver.

At first, it is just a matter of Jonas’s failure to accept his society’s rules and structures as he comes to understand them.  When Jonas begins his training as Receiver of Memory, he develops a new code of morality that does not conform to his society’s anymore. 

Through the memories, Jonas begins to see color.  Color is his first clue that there could be a world apart from “Sameness,” his community’s principle for bleak conformity.  The concept of color awakens Jonas to the idea of choice, which is a baffling notion to him.

"I know it's not important, what you wear. It doesn't matter. But—"

 "It's the choosing that's important, isn't it?" The Giver asked him. (Ch. 13)

As Jonas develops in his training, he learns more and more about how things used to be, in the time when people had feelings, before the community had Sameness. 

As a result, he begins to rebel in small ways, and he takes advantage of the privileges of his position. 

He lies to his parents.  Lying is strictly forbidden, but Jonas is allowed to lie.

 Do you understand why it's inappropriate to use a word like 'love'?" Mother asked. Jonas nodded. "Yes, thank you, I do," he replied slowly. It was his first lie to his parents. (Ch. 16)

 He stops taking the Stirrings pills, which are used to prevent people from having sexual feelings.  All citizens adolescent age and older must take Stirrings pills.  (Jonas is not exempt from this rule, but nobody notices.)

The Stirrings had returned, and he felt a little guilty and embarrassed about the pleasurable dreams that came to him as he slept. But he knew he couldn't go back to the world of no feelings that he had lived in so long. (Ch. 17)

Each of these incidents is important.  First of all, Jonas is exploring the concept of “love.”  This is one that he learned about in the memories.  He exercised his right to lie, but he did it after he learned that his parents have no idea of what used to be a fundamental human feeling.  He also stopped taking the pills that prevent feelings, because he wanted to feel fully human.  Since he has special privileges now, people do not watch him as carefully.

Breaking society’s hold on you is a dangerous thing to do.  When Jonas learns the true meaning of release, after seeing his father kill an infant, he rebels.  He makes a plan with The Giver to break out, returning the memories to the community so that everyone can feel again.

The plan goes awry though, when Jonas learns that baby Gabe, the young newchild he has been protecting for months, is scheduled for release.  Jonas has to move up the plan.  He escapes at night, taking the baby with him.  He risks his life to save the baby because he knows that Gabe is condemned to death if he doesn’t save him.

A dystopia is a character vs. society conflict in which a society looks like a perfect world at first, but then when you look more closely, you see that something is wrong.  Such is the case with The Giver.  Everyone seems happy, but everyone is not happy.  They are not happy or sad.  They are in fact feeling nothing.  A world in which everyone feels nothing is worse than a world in which everyone feels pain.  People have to feel something to be truly alive.

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