The Giver Analysis

  • Many people think of The Giver as an allegory of Anabaptist and Amish communities. The supposedly utopian society Lowry depicts shares many qualities with these religious groups, including the collective creation and enforcement of strict community rules. In the end, however, Lowry suggests that the uniformity imposed by these groups is a danger to individuality.
  • The Giver tackles the controversial issue of euthanasia, the process of intentionally ending a life in order to prevent pain and suffering. In Jonas's dystopian society, infants who develop at abnormal rates are "released," or euthanized, ostensibly for their benefit. Jonas is horrified by the process, however, and the novel as a whole seems to take a stand against euthanasia.
  • Colors are powerful symbols of life in The Giver. When Jonas sees the color red for the first time, he is opened up to a new world of sensations and emotions. His ability to remember warmth saves his and Gabriel's lives as they brave hypothermia to escape to Elsewhere.


Lowry's novel was written against the backdrop of events in Bosnia, and in particular the ugly results of "ethnic cleansing." During the early 1990s, Serbian forces in Bosnia opened concentration camps and attempted to rid the country of Muslims. Muslim women were raped and Muslim men incarcerated and starved, all as a matter of social and political policy. These practices were made known to the world by investigative journalism. The community in Lowry's novel is similarly concerned to keep outsiders at bay. There is only a way out of the community, no way in.

While writing her novel, Lowry will have been aware of a celebrated euthanasia case in 1990, involving Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian had once proposed rendering death row prison inmates unconscious so that their living bodies could be used as the subjects of medical experiments. The suggestion had led to his dismissal, but he continued his preoccupation with euthanasia by writing on the subject for European medical journals. In an issue of Medicine and Law, he suggested setting up suicide clinics, arguing that the acceptance of planned death required the establishment of well-staffed and well-organized medical clinics where terminally ill patients can opt for death under controlled circumstances of compassion and decorum. In the late 1980s, he developed a suicide device that was basically a method of administering a lethal injection. In the novel, the Releasing Room, and the crude means of administering Release, bear all the hallmarks of Kevorkian's suicide device.

Kevorkian appeared on the Donahue talk show in April 1990. A woman who had been diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's disease saw the show and got into contact with him. An English professor, she found the...

(The entire section is 730 words.)