At a Glance

  • 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.

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Analysis

Narration and Point of View

The Giver is told from a third-person limited point-of-view. Through this perspective, the reader gains direct information about Jonas’s thoughts, feelings, and personal memories, as well as general knowledge about the community’s rules and practices. This style of narration is very important for understanding how some of the novel’s present actions mirror actions in the past. Two examples are the Ceremony of Loss, which involves repeating the name of the deceased with less frequency and volume until there is only silence, and the Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, which is the opposite. The novel has very little descriptive imagery and instead focuses on actions, dialogue, and Jonas’s inner thoughts The novel is told from Jonas’s perspective, and since Jonas does not know that there can be varied appearances or that color exists, the text does not describe things with vivid or colorful language.

Setting and Style

The novel takes place in an unnamed community where everyone is clothed, fed, comfortable, and virtually everyone appears to be satisfied with their lives. The community has no clear real-world analogue, though some of the memories that the Giver transfers to Jonas reflect American culture. This connection can be seen in the Christmas celebration and in the war memory, which resembles the American Civil War. (The dying boy Jonas sees in this memory is wearing a gray uniform.) Lowry published the novel in the early 1990s and incorporated many controversial topics, such as euthanasia, abortion, and assisted suicide. Because The Giver includes topics like suicide and sexual maturation, it has been frequently banned in schools and libraries while at the same time being formally recognized for its contribution to children’s literature.

Because of the novel’s generally sparse style, the descriptions of these controversial events tend to be sterile and almost journalistic. The only break from these detached descriptions are the forays into Jonas’s emotions. Time progresses in the novel at an uneven pace. Some chapters, such as those describing Jonas’s training, represent several weeks passing by and only highlight the important moments during that span of time. Other chapters cover a few hours in detail, such as those in which Jonas asks about Rosemary, learns about Release, and plans his escape with the Giver.

Symbols

Some of the prominent symbols in the novel include the color red and light-colored eyes . Jonas, Gabriel, and the Giver all have light-colored eyes, which Jonas initially thinks makes him look odd, and he does not like that he looks different. He concludes, looking at Gabriel, that they have “depth,” and they seem to be a requirement for transferring memories easily. Jonas also begins to see the color red, in the apple he tosses with Asher, in the faces of the community members, in Fiona’s hair, and later in the memories. Red has many connotations across cultures, such as...

(The entire section is 3,603 words.)