Thoughts on The Giver

During the Summer Reading Challenge, Redeemed Reader interns Amos Peck and Grace Olson, Valen Caldwell, intern at Breakpoint.org, and I –Hayley Schoeppler, Redeemed Reader’s executive assistant– got together (via Skype!) and discussed The Giver.  Here are some highlights from our discussion.

Summary

The Giver is written by Lois Lowry  . . . .  The protagonist’s name is Jonas, and he lives in this perfect society, this utopia.  He is almost twelve when the story starts.  In this utopia, the society is set up so that the government controls almost every aspect of their lives: from what they do in school to what their vocations will be when they grow up, who they marry, what kids they get, everything.

Jonas gets assigned his vocation when he turns twelve and he gets the special position of being the new Receiver.  His job is to hold on to the memories of humanity and to bear those memories so that everyone else in the society does not have to bear them.

Basically, Jonas remembers what our world is like.  He remembers things like the Civil War, Christmas, sled rides, and no one else knows about those things. . . .That’s the basic plot of the book.  –Amos

Foundational Questions 

The Giver, through the eyes of the protagonist Jonas, looks at [the question] what is mankind?  Are we basically good or basically evil?  It’s not explicitly stated necessarily, but through the eyes of Jonas, we see that humans are broken and we do have moral problems.

Beyond that . . . how should we run our communities and function as society as a whole?  Can we regulate and control people’s moral impulses, and to what extent can we control them?

I think those are a few of the questions that are examined.  I would say that The Giver takes things from an individual level as well as a community level.

Beyond that, a few things I mentioned in the discussion questions would just be, “Can we have a perfect world, and should we strive for that?”  Those are pretty basic questions that we all have to ask at some point. . . .  –Valen

Enjoying The Giver

Dystopian novels have always made me feel more grateful for the world we have because though there is still a lot of corruption, we are quite blessed.  The part I would say I liked best is how Jonas, at the end, you realize that he was missing out on so much.  Even though it involved pain, he was willing to leave the community in search of something else.  –Grace

Lois Lowry as an author

Her writing style was something that I really enjoyed about the book. –Grace

 

She’s definitely an amazing writer.  That’s one of the things that I appreciated as I was reading the book.  She pulls you into the story and takes it along.  –Hayley

 

 . . .  Lowry’s writing is just phenomenal.  I really like that she’s not didactic at all.  She just speaks through the eyes of a child.  I think that’s really powerful.  I have read other dystopian literature, and I think there is something powerful about The Giver being through Jonas’s eyes. –Valen

 

Dark Content for Younger Readers

. . . The team at Redeemed Reader chose to put The Giver in the teen reading challenge for ages about 14 and up because we realize that The Giver has elements and content that can be problematic for younger readers.  –Hayley

 

One of the things that we really like about The Giver is that she [Lowry] is so descriptive.  She really captures the darkness in The Giver, and that’s also one of the reasons it can be troubling for younger children because she captures that darkness so well that it really becomes alive.  For younger readers, it is dark.  Specifically, there are aspects of it, such as the killing of the old people, the “releasing” of them, the killing of the babies, loss of personal freedom, the destruction of the family . . . All kinds of different things that are going on in this.

So, younger readers are certainly exposed to some very dark and very horrible things. —Amos

. . .  I certainly would not recommend The Giver for a younger age without much discretion on the part of parents . . .  –Valen

The Trouble With Darkness 

At first Jonas doesn’t realize what is going on, and he doesn’t realize how bad things are, but the more and more he discovers, he recoils against it.  He is revolted by it.  I do appreciate that Lowry paints bad things as actually being repulsive and wrong.

My biggest problem with The Giver, and it’s certainly a well-written book, but the one thing I would say that is negative about it, is that of course Lowry does an extremely good job of painting what is bad and describing those things, but she spends very little time on what is good . . . –Amos

 

The Reason for Darkness

. .  . We can write about whatever we want in fantasy or in fiction, but the reason that we have darkness and evil in it is so that we can contrast it to the light and show the light to be better and superior.  We can make the light even brighter because it is contrasted to the darkness.  But if we have mostly darkness and very little light to contrast it with, we have not really accomplished anything. –Amos

Truth in the The Giver 

. . . Jonas ultimately knows what is true through the past and through first of all the past, once he receives memories from The Giver, he begins to understand his present situation through the context of that.  Once he is rooted in history, so to speak, he understands how to make moral decisions in the present.  An understanding of his past helps [Jonas] know good and evil.

Fundamentally, we -as humans- will make moral judgements rooted in what we know to be true.  More specifically, as Christians, our judgements and decisions are based in what we know in Scripture.  –Valen

 

We hope you have enjoyed these highlights.  Click HERE to listen to the entire discussion.

Have you read The Giver?  Did you enjoy it?  Have your children read it?  How would you discuss some of its disturbing elements?  Please comment below and share your thoughts! 

 

, , , , , , ,

5 Responses to Thoughts on The Giver

  1. Sharon Henning August 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    I appreciate what Amos said about “The Giver” being too dark heavy and not being balanced with enough light. I see that in a lot of literature written from a secular perspective. Many authors are able to acutely describe what’s wrong with society but offer no real solution. Or why they know it’s wrong.

    Of course, that’s because none of it makes sense outside of a Christian perspective.

    I can’t remember who said it (C.S. Lewis?) when talking about another author, but to paraphrase: “He sees darkness in all things, but sheds no light by which to pierce the darkness.”

  2. Emily August 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Kelli, Thanks so much for sharing how RR is impacting you and your family. As for the movie review, actually, I’m working on a radio review for TW&E, which I will link to from RR’s facebook page when I’m done. It can’t be posted before Aug 12 due to studio embargo, but sometime thereafter (Lord willing!) we’ll have it available. Hoping eventually to make these reviews accessible directly on RR, but we’re just not there yet. Keep reading and recommending to your friends, though, and hopefully we’ll get there!

  3. Kelli August 4, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    Thanks Emily. Hmm….maybe y’all could review the movie as well? Maybe a few of you could see it and offer your thoughts/perspective? I love this site. I use it almost exclusively to find books for my children. My 14yo is a voracious reader so I’m always looking for new books for her. Thanks for all of your hard work!

  4. Emily August 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Kelli,

    The Giver isn’t nearly as problematic in terms of death and killing as Hunger Games. That’s true for both book and movie. However, I would say the movie especially ratchets up some of the worldview problems, pitting love versus law and presenting all religions as equal. My friend who attended the screening with me said she was really torn about letting her 14 year old see it–hadn’t made up her mind. For older kids and kids who aren’t that sensitive or are astute about worldview, it might not be such a problem. But the worldview angle gives me most pause at that age. They need to be able to detach a little and think critically, which is difficult at 14.

    Hope that helps some! –EW

  5. Kelli August 3, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    Hmm…my daughter is 14.5 and is getting ready to read the book. She wants to see the movie and our general rule has always been to read the book before seeing the movie. How graphic is the killing of babies, old people etc.? She’s read The Hunger Games so maybe that is a lot more graphic than this particular book.

Leave a Reply