The Giver by Lois Lowry
The world that the book takes place in consists of several communities. Each community is governed by the Elder. The Elder are like the mayors of the city. Almost everything in this world is totally controlled. For instance, people do not get to choose what job they want to have. They are given their job at the “Ceremony of the Twelves” (their age is not said as “I am twelve”, but as “I am a Twelve”). Another thing that shows that their world is controlled is that even the weather is controlled somehow.
The people in this world do not see color. They don't know music. They do not know about death either. Their word for it is “release”. They are told that the people that are release go to a different community. People believe they then spend their lives in that community. The people do not have intense feelings either. When in they book they say that they are angry, for instance, they are not really angry, merely annoyed. Everybody seems happy. They also spend a lot of time sharing their feelings within the family group, and trying to make each other feel better. One of the games that the children play is a war-like game. The are pretending to have guns and shoot at each other. They don't think it is something bad because they don't know what war is.
The main character in this book is Jonas. In the book the main character's age begins at the age of 11 and the book ends when he is 13. The Ceremony of the Twelves is special for him because he finds out that instead of being assigned a job, he is “chosen”. He is to be trained to be the new Receiver. The Receiver is a sort of historian. He is more than just a historian, though. As the world they live in is totally controlled, they have enlisted a person to hold not only the historical memories, but also intense feelings. The Receiver bears the memories of wind, war, sunshine, savoring, music, color etc. This is done to be sure that the people do not experience the pain that can come with having strong emotions.
The old Receiver, who tells Jonas to call him The Giver, transfers the memories to Jonas by a unique method that sounds a bit like how people can read other people's minds. Jonas then finds out about war, colors, music, snow, sunshine and about pain and joy and all kinds of other intense emotions. While this information get transferred to him, he becomes confused and start feeling ambivalent. On the one hand he feels people are deprived of something, on the other hand he feels that maybe life will become very complicated if everyone had all these experiences and feelings. In the end he decides that he can no longer live in these communities. With the help of the Giver he runs away. By running away he will help his people because the memories will leave him and will return to the people. This is the only way in which the people will realize that there is more to life.
What I liked about this book is that some ideas are related to some things that happen in real life. For example, the native Hawaiians had a person that would hold the tribe's memories, and he would chant about them during festival days. One thing I didn't like very much is that the people are very protective of their children. For example, the children are not allowed to ride a bike until they have finished the Ceremony of Nines. I would not like to have this kind of life, but you would maybe not be bothered by it very much if you would grow up this way and didn't know any better. The central theme that I encountered in the book is that somewhere in the past somebody tried to create a life with no pain, no war, basically no insecurities. But along the way that life also become a life without much color, a life with few individual choices.
The ending of the book is kind of ambiguous because it is unclear if he lives and reaches a kind of world like in his memories, or if he dies. At the end of the book, the author describes a scene in which Jonas sees an image of Christmas, with singing and color. He also sees a sled and uses it to slide down a hill. The question is, is it real or is it just a vision before he dies.