In The Giver, how does Lowry portray "knowledge is power" as superior to "ignorance is bliss"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The dystopian world in The Giver is fashioned to make life as easy and "pleasant" as possible for its inhabitants. For that reason, the people know not of famine, pain, or inconvenience. Jonas alone in his community can see color. On his twelfth year he is given the job of "Receiver of Memory." In this position, Jonas is the only person to learn of the community's collective memory and the stories that happened prior to their world of "Sameness," which is relatively painless and emotionless. As the Receiver, Jonas bears the memories of the past in order to prevent his community from repeating previous ills and mistakes. Jonas receives good memories from the Giver, and experiences exhilarating sensations of bright colors, extreme warm and cold weather, and feelings of love and passion.

Although Jonas does receive memories of war and pain and famine, all of the memories he receives—especially the positive ones—give his existence more meaning and richness. Jonas comes to realize how boring and devoid of meaning life in the cloistered community is. The community is trapped in a state of "ignorance is bliss"—shielded from the bad and the good alike.

Ignorance isn't exactly bliss in The Giver. However, it is safer and more predictable. Without true suffering, the people in the community are unable to feel real love or passion. "Bliss" does not exist for them, since they are not capable of feeling strongly. Jonas, on the other hand, proves that "knowledge is power." He receives the power to be able to feel deeply from being exposed to emotional lows and highs.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial