How does the quote "The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared." from The Giver apply to other literature you've read?

"The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared." —Lois Lowry, The Giver

Quick answer:

To use this quote from The Giver to analyze literature, it would be helpful to reflect on its relevance to readers. For example, consider how memories can be painful in contemporary society, not just in the dystopian one of Lowry's novel. This could help in constructing an essay about the relevant messages in dystopian literature.

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The theme of sharing memories is important in literature, as the goal of writing is to preserve memory so that it can be shared collectively.

The issue of memory is integral to two major works of dystopic literature that inform The Giver, which are 1984 and Brave New World. Both societies depicted are centrally concerned with erasing memory so that citizens live in a perpetual fragmented present that is cut off from past and future.

In 1984, individual memories have to be constantly readjusted to conform with what has been determined to be the reality of the day by the state. From a literary point of view, you could compare Winston's function as memory eraser with the Giver's function as the sole holder of painful memories. Both characters are lonely because they have knowledge they are forbidden to share with others. In Brave New World, citizens live in an eternal present in which the past has been largely erased. Only controllers like Mustapha Mond have access to life in the past—but the key character who experiences loneliness is John the Savage. He has no "bridge" to share his experience with others. As in The Giver, Brave New World's "saving" people from memory is supposed to ensure happiness but in fact dehumanizes the society.

From a literary point of view, you could approach all three works from the point of view of imagery or metaphors that convey the themes of memory and loneliness and their connection to dehumanization. The colorlessness of the society in The Giver is a key image or metaphor that conveys the dehumanization of robbing people of memory. The color the Giver alone experiences sets him apart and represents his loneliness, as he can't share his depths with others. Memory holes are a metaphor for the memory erasure and "holes"—loneliness—it leaves in 1984. In Brave New World, Shakespeare can be seen, as color can in The Giver, as a metaphor for lost memories.

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In the quotation provided from The Giver, emphasis is placed on the contrast between sharing memories and the inability to share them. Retaining difficult memories not only causes pain to the one who remembers but also creates an additional burden of loneliness. One way to approach an interpretive essay on this theme would be to utilize two literary texts that focus on the contrasting points that are raised. One text could provide evidence about the positive values of sharing memories, while the other text would contain support for the idea that loneliness is a potentially harmful consequence of keeping memories by oneself. In her graphic memoir Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi supports the benefits of shared or collective memory. In the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, the character of Melinda is lonely and afraid, largely because she cannot communicate her painful memories of sexual assault.

Both authors have young female protagonists who experience isolation. In Marjane’s case, the oral tradition and family memories that her grandmother shares help her cope with life in exile. Melinda, although she continues to live at home and attend her regular school, feels increasingly separate from her family and friends. She is burdened by the memory that Andy raped her but cannot tell anyone about the attack or even speak out loud.

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When using this quotation to analyze literature, you should consider why this quote is significant to the story. Then consider what that shows about how quotations shape a literary text. For example, one could claim that this quote shows how dystopian literature contains relevant messages for contemporary society.

Consider how this quote speaks to the larger themes of The Giver. The quote itself is referring to the fact that the Giver has to hold onto all of the community's painful memories. This concept of transferring and containing memories is one of the unique characteristics of the book’s dystopian society. However, the quote is also relatable to contemporary readers. Possessing painful personal memories and not sharing them with others can be an isolating experience. This quote can thus also be seen as good advice for people in general, instead of just a critique of how this futuristic society deals with memory.

The way the relevance of this quote extends beyond the book’s specific plot points suggests that similar works of literature have the power to do the same. Consider other dystopian or science fiction works you have read. Oftentimes they have relatable lessons and messages for readers even though they are set in a different time or world. Referencing similar works would help you construct a cohesive essay about literature’s impact through the lens of this quote.

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When we look at this quote, we are reminded of the plot of The Giver, in which a single man holds the collective memories of the entire community. In a society where there exists no hunger, pain, or divisions among community members, it seems an attractive prospect to forget that war, famine, and racism ever existed in the first place. However, when Jonas, the main character of the novel, is selected to be the receiver of memories, he learns that not only has the community forgotten what it means to be different and hungry, but they have also forgotten what it means to love and experience simple joys such as riding down a hill in the snow.

This is, of course, incredibly isolating. Jonas is forbidden from sharing these memories with anyone, and he, along with his mentor, The Giver, finds the desire to share everything he knows with those close to him to be unbearable.

Now that the context of the quote is clear, perhaps you can consider what works you have read that it may apply to. In order to approach this, I would look at various characters that you have come across. Perhaps a character such as Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment would be a good example, as he is haunted by the memories of the murder he commits and eventually(like Jonas) finds keeping the secret to be unbearable; he ultimately falls on his knees and confesses.

You could also look at characters such as Offred from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, who is forbidden from sharing her memories of her life before Gilead and finds herself completely isolated and powerless to affect change (which changes once she finds others like her and is able to discuss her memories and desires).

It is appropriate here to be somewhat flexible in your view of memories. Memories can be secrets, knowledge passed down to others, or perhaps even books themselves.

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