What purpose do the alternate labels serve and what effect do they have in Lois Lowry's "The Giver"?

Throughout The Giver, author, Lois Lowry renames many everyday terms. Eleven-year-olds are "elevens", babies are "new children", stuffed animals are "comfort objects" and families are "family units".

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The Giver takes place in a futuristic society which, at first glance, seems to be utopian. However, this society values conformity above all else. Throughout the novel, Jonas begins to see issues with this lifestyle and realizes that his home is not the perfect place it initially seemed to be.

Lowry gives common things in her world alternative labels. This is not by accident. She does this to make a point. You may notice that the labels Lowry comes up with often take the place of words that have inherent emotional value. In other words, using a word like "new children" instead of "babies" dehumanizes the idea of a baby in some ways. In this world, stuffed animals become "comfort objects" and children are called Elevens rather than eleven-year-olds.

Lowry's usage of alternative labels helps readers of The Giver recognize that Jonas' society has many problems of its own. It regulates human behavior and dehumanizes the most emotional parts of human life. The society has done this, it seems, to create a more perfect world. However, Jonas soon learns that the world he inhabits is void of many of the things that give human life meaning. Lowry's labels are a guide for what the society has taken away from the human experience.

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