By Lois Lowry
The Giver opens in a bland, generic society where people are assigned careers (because Big Brother knows best) and given medication to suppress sexual feelings and closes on the promise of color, warmth, and, most of all, love.
In between Lowry tells the story full of social and political undertones. It’s intent is clear–to scare people away from the slippery slope that woud lead to a society like this. For example, when Jonas expressed his concerns about his upcoming assignment, Lowry reveals that the job of Birthmother “was an important job, if lacking in prestige.” That’s really not much different from now. Birthmothers in this society lived a cushioned lifestyle for three years while they birth three children then they assigned to back-breaking manual labor until their retirement. Birthmothers are only valued for their one attribute and weren’t allowed a family of their own.
While Birthmothers weren’t valued, women in general were. The current Chief Elder was a woman and Jonas’s mother had a higher position that his father. I found this an interesting aspect of the story, but women don’t always need to be cast completely aside for the society’s policies and practices to not be in women’s best inerest.
When Jonas receives his assignment as the Receiver, we learn the qualities that will make him ideal for the job: intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom and the ability to See Beyond. In giving up safety and all he has known, Jonas exudes these characteristics, so we can look at the announcement of these characteristics as foreshadowing. They were to eventually play a crucial role in the story.
Like most dystopian novels, the society in The Giver isn’t completely evil (in some dystopian stories the society may be evil but was often founded for good). No one starves. Everyone has a home. For the most part, everyone is equal, except they were allowed to be individuals when it came to volunteering. The volunteer positions the citizens chose impacted their eventual assignments.
This book was enjoyable, but its ending was too blunt. Although this is a series, a little more resolution would have been ideal. I do recommend it. It’s a quick, thought-provoking read.