What are three ways Jonas's society in The Giver differs from ours?

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Jonas's society in The Giver is different from ours in many ways. Jonas's society is founded on the principles of Sameness, which controls the climate, alters the natural landscape, and ensures complete uniformity. Jonas's society also requires citizens to use precise language. Citizens in Jonas's society also lack individual freedoms, and the Committee of Elders makes every significant life decision. The committee matches spouses, plans family units, and decides each person's occupation.

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One of the main differences between Jonas's community and our world concerns the measures taken to create an equal society. Members of Jonas's community are required to wear specific attire and maintain certain hairstyles that delineate their gender and age. Citizens are not allowed to individually express themselves and must conform or risk being released.

The members of Jonas's society are also prohibited from acknowledging their minor differences and bringing attention to their achievements. Anything that would make a person stand out or seem unique is frowned upon and forbidden. The scientists in Jonas's society have even experimented with genetic modification to create an equal, uniform population.

Another difference is that knowledge is censored in Jonas's society. The Giver is the only person in Jonas's community with access to a variety of books from the past and the authority to ask certain questions. The only books citizens can access are the reference volumes and the Book of Rules inside their dwellings. Jonas is even prohibited from discussing his training sessions with others and is one of the few people with access to the Hall of Closed Records. The Committee of Elders censors knowledge to maintain its authority and cultivate a passive, obedient population.

Euthanasia is another main difference between our society and Jonas's world. In Jonas's community, euthanasia is legal and used on a regular basis. The euphemism for euthanasia in Jonas's community is the term "release" and the elderly living in the House of the Old are "released" following a pleasant ceremony. Unhealthy newborns and infants who do not reach their development goals are also euthanized. Once Jonas discovers the true meaning behind the term "release," he is appalled and flees the community with Gabriel.

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Jonas lives in a strict, mundane society, which is founded on the principles of Sameness and controlled by the ruling Committee of Elders. The principles of Sameness dramatically alter the environment and the way citizens in Jonas's community experience life altogether. In Jonas's society, Sameness makes colors, music, and individualism completely obsolete. Sameness also impacts the natural landscape and climate. In Jonas's society, there are no hills, bad weather, or sunshine. Citizens also lack the spontaneity of life and live in a completely safe, uniform community.

In addition to the dramatic influence of Sameness, the citizens in Jonas's community are required to use precise language at all times. Jonas must exercise caution when speaking and choose his words carefully. At a young age, children are taught to use precise language, and educators employ corporal punishment to enforce this rule. Jonas's close friend Asher was severely beaten as a child for continually mispronouncing words. The community's authority figures believe the use of precise language contributes to their society's stability.

The third main difference between Jonas's society and our society concerns individual freedoms. In Jonas's society, individualism does not exist and citizens have no personal freedoms. The Committee of Elders makes every significant decision in a person's life from matching them with a spouse to assigning citizens an occupation. Jonas and the members of his community have no choice in their life and must follow their assigned, designated path. In contrast, individuals in our society have the choice to marry who they please, decide if they want to procreate, and pick their desired occupation.

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Jonas’s society is tightly controlled by Sameness, and no one makes their own choices.

In Jonas’s world, everyone in the community lives by the community’s rules.  The rules are very strict, and they are all based on the principle of Sameness.  At its most basic, this means that all of the big decisions are made.  Your family, your occupation, and your housing are chosen for you.  You are provided with food and clothing.  It is a life of predictability and control, but not control by you.  You are under their control.

One of the major differences is that people do not choose their spouses or have children.  Family units are created by committee, and children are created genetically (it’s not entirely clear how) and born to special birthmothers.  They are raised in Nurturing Centers for a year and then appointed to family units created with one male and one female adult and one male and one female child.  Once the children are grown the unit disbands.  The idea is to control the population.

Centuries back. The population had gotten so big that hunger was everywhere. Excruciating hunger and starvation.  It was followed by warfare. (Ch. 14)

There is also no love.  To prevent unwanted babies (and unwanted feelings), all adults take pills for Stirrings.  This way they control both emotions and the population.

Another difference is that people do not choose their own jobs.  At the age of twelve, children are assigned an occupation during a special ceremony called the Ceremony of Twelve.

[The Ceremony of Twelve was proceeded by a speech by the Chief Elder about] the period of preparation, the coming responsibilities of adult life, the profound importance of Assignment, the seriousness of training to come. (Ch. 7)

From twelve on, the children train for their job and slowly train less and work more until they become fully responsible adults.

Finally, Jonas’s world is different from ours because differences are not tolerated.  They have a way of dealing with differences called release.

There were only two occasions of release which were not punishment. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we-have-done. (Ch. 1)

Later, Jonas learns that release actually means death by lethal injection.  A person who breaks three laws—or one major one—is released.  A baby who does not grow fast enough, or a person who is too old to be valuable, is also released.  Differences are simply not allowed.

This book is an example of a dystopia because it shows an attempt to create a perfect world that has gone wrong.  It is meant as a warning, showing us that the things we try to control are actually sometimes the things we most value.  While differences, choices, and emotions might make life harder, they are also what make life worth living.

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