This haunting story centers on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he’s given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
Review by Michael Connery
Lois Lowry’s story, The Giver, was first published in the early nineties and while it is geared toward a young audience, it is a disquieting tale written in a mature, eloquent voice. The Giver explores a society which has chosen to give up individuality and choice for the guise of a peaceful existence. In society’s endeavor to create a utopia, humanity has been left behind. There is no purpose, no desire, no joy, no feeling, no color. People are shells; they have been reduced to automatons. They feel no pain, but neither do they feel love. There is no memory and no history, save for the one individual chosen to be the Receiver of Memory.
Jonas, the protagonist of the story, is a product of this society, and at the age of twelve, he’s given his daunting life assignment as the Receiver of Memory. The characters in the tale are one-dimensional cardboard cutouts, and while this may be seen by some as a weakness, it is a brilliant reflection of the flat emptiness this utopia has created in place of vibrant, diverse people. Under the tutelage of the previous Receiver of Memory—now known as the Giver with Jonas’s assignment—Jonas slowly evolves from one-dimensionality to a dynamic character grappling with the knowledge of what has been given up in order to create a perfect world. Lowry’s storytelling is crisp, reflecting the starkness of this future society and the precise use of language. While the reader—particularly the adult reader—begins unfolding the clues of the harrowing cost of this utopia from the first pages, Jonas’s awakening unfolds with poignance and suspense. The tale follows his evolution as he comes to understand the true cost of this utopian existence and what he chooses to do with this painful knowledge.
As in any dystopian literature, there is a moralistic tone to the tale, but Lowry’s themes are disturbing and pointed. The writing style is straight-forward and lyrical, and the author paints a vivid, haunting picture that both enthralls and horrifies. The Giver is an evocative tale of love, choice, sacrifice, language, and memory that will resonate with readers young and old.
Highly recommended for fans of dystopian, thought-provoking literature