Which of these 7 elements (totalitarian government, rigid caste system, society is closely monitored, highly developed technology, violence and pain, environmental disasters, lack of free choice)...

Which of these 7 elements (totalitarian government, rigid caste system, society is closely monitored, highly developed technology, violence and pain, environmental disasters, lack of free choice) appear in The Giver? Give reasons explaining your answer. 

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Totalitarian Government: Yes

A totalitarian government is characterized as a governing body that dictates almost every aspect of society and represses individual freedoms in order to control its citizens. Throughout the novel, Jonas's society is controlled by the Committee of Elders, who have the authority to issue and enforce laws. Every citizen is required to follow the laws and regulations of society, or else they are "released." The citizens have no say with regard to their individual freedoms and must obey the laws set by the Committee of Elders. After a citizen's third transgression, they are "released," which is a euphemism for being killed. As in other totalitarian regimes, the citizens of Jonas's society are exposed to propaganda and taught that the laws enforced are necessary for their safety and well-being. The citizens blindly accept the laws set forth and are content to live without their individual freedoms. The goal of the totalitarian government in the novel is to create a society void of emotional and physical pain. In order to maintain this society, the government strictly regulates every aspect of its citizens' lives.

Rigid Caste System: No

Unlike other fictional societies, there is no rigid caste system found in The Giver. Every individual is treated equally in Jonas's society and given the same opportunities. Other than the Receiver and Giver, who are given special privileges because of their important occupations, the citizens live among each other as equals. One could argue that the Committee of Elders is the upper class, but there is still no evidence of a rigid caste system in Jonas's society.

Society Is Closely Monitored: Somewhat

Throughout the novel, the Committee of Elders is continually observing the citizens, particularly the younger children. During the Ceremony of Twelve, the Chief Elder explains how the Committee carefully observes each child before assigning them to an occupation. The citizens also closely regulate themselves and report misconduct. However, there are no Thought Police or telescreens in the walls of the citizens' homes like in 1984.

Highly Developed Technology: No

Jonas's society is in many ways not much more developed than ours. The most sophisticated technology explicitly mentioned in Jonas's society is when a plane flies over the community. They also issue statements over a loudspeaker, which would not be considered an advanced piece of technology.

Violence and Pain: No

As was mentioned earlier in this response, the goal of the governing body is to prevent violence and pain, which is the reason individual freedoms are repressed. Jonas and the Giver are the only members of society who have experienced pain. When Jonas receives his Assignment, he is unnerved when he is told that he will experience pain for the first time. The Receiver and Giver contain all of the community's pain and knowledge throughout the novel. The general population does not understand pain or violence—though the society does have a darker relationship with death, or "release."

Environmental Disasters: No

Throughout the novel, Jonas's community does not experience an environmental disaster. Environmental disasters impact the natural environment and are caused by human activity. The only disaster that is mentioned involved the Giver's daughter releasing her painful memories into the community. However, the natural environment of the community was never affected throughout the novel.

Lack of Free Choice: Yes

As was mentioned earlier in this response, the Committee of Elders strictly regulates society. The citizens are forbidden from acting upon their impulses and are not given their individual freedoms. In Jonas's society, marriages are arranged, children selected, and occupations assigned. Citizens are expected to play their roles in society and obey the decisions of the Elders. Individuals are not free to think and behave as they please. Failure to comply with society's expectations results in being "released."

ishpiro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would like to argue that "society is closely monitored" in The Giver more than just "somewhat" and that Jonas's society does have "highly developed technology."

The citizens in The Giver are observed and monitored constantly, not just by each other and the Elders, who need to do that in order to eventually assign appropriate jobs, but by some kind of "police" as well. We learn this when Jonas notices something unusual about an apple (he starts to be able to perceive it as red) and tries to take it home to explore the object further. He is then immediately reprimanded by the loudspeaker reminding everyone that fruits and snacks are to be eaten, not to be played with. While the announcement is made in an impersonal way, Jonas knows that it applies to him and that his action has been noticed.

The technology in Jonas's society is highly developed; however, its use is scrupulously controlled, and it is used only for specific purposes: to (presumably) benefit society, never for entertainment. The following are some of the many examples of the results of advanced technology:

  • a high level of climate control achieved in the region where Jonas lives—there is no inclement weather
  • feats of genetic engineering—all people in the community, with few exceptions, look the same. "They" are working on eliminating blue eyes, like Jonas's and Gabriel's, and red hair, like Fiona's
  • babies are produced by artificial insemination
  • a well-developed surveillance system, as evident in Jonas's experience with the apple; also, the Giver is able to show Jonas the videotape of the "release" performed earlier, and he can communicate from his "dwelling" with the outside world through some kind of video conference system

All of the above point to the remarkable achievements in science and technology, rigidly controlled by those who have power but not available to most of the community.

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The Giver

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