Significant Allusions

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Biblical Allusions: Lowry makes use of allusions to symbols and individuals from the Judeo-Christian tradition. As a result, the story carries the resonance of some of the central images and stories of Western civilization, despite its futuristic dystopian setting. 

  • The apple: One of Jonas’s first clues that he is different from his peers arrives when he sees flickers of the color red on an apple he is playing with. The apple is an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve in the biblical Book of Genesis. The snake in the Garden of Eden uses an apple to tempt Eve to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. The apple endows Eve—and then Adam—with self-consciousness. As a result, apples often symbolize pleasures of the flesh, temptation, guilt, and shame but also revelation and freedom. 
  • Jonas as Jonah: Some read in Jonas’s name an allusion to Jonah, a name that is sometimes translated directly as Jonas. The Book of Jonah recounts Jonah’s experience as a prophet of God. He receives a message from God to bring to Nineveh, dictating that the people there will be punished by God for their wickedness. Instead of carrying the message, Jonah flees aboard a ship. When the ship meets foul weather, Jonah admits to the crew that he brought on the wrath of God. As a result, the crew throws Jonah overboard, where he is eaten by a large fish or whale. He survives for three days, during which he writes a hymn of thanks to God before being regurgitated. Some read Jonas’s choices between staying or leaving his community in The Giver as analogous to Jonah’s choice of whether or not to deliver the word of God. 
  • Jonas as Jesus: Others read Jonas’s character as analogous to Jesus Christ. As the son of God, Jesus’s death is often read as a sacrifice that redeems humanity from original sin—Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Many see a parallel between the lives of Jonas and Jesus. Jonas sacrifices his life in the community in order to share memories with his fellow citizens, giving them the opportunity to experience the pleasures of life, such as love. Similarly, some read the position of the Receiver as analogous to the social function Jesus has: an individual in society selected to carry collective suffering. 
  • Gabriel: The name of the infant that Jonas’s family brings to live with them is also the name of an archangel. Appearing in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Gabriel is one of God’s chief messengers. Most notably, he appears before Mary and tells her that she will become pregnant with the son of God, Jesus. Gabriel is usually associated with hope, grace, and optimism for a better future. 

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