Monday, January 10, 2011

The Giver

Has anyone read The Giver by Lois Lowry? I am told it is fifth grade curriculum, though I find it pretty gruesome for fifth graders.

It's an excellently written piece of fiction that I read straight through. As my daughter noted, it's more like a long (179 page) short story than a novel.  Perhaps a novelette?

It takes place in another time, probably the future, or perhaps just a parallel place/universe in which peace and perfection consist of knowing no pain but also requires the absence of all real emotion and color (in all its meanings).

From the back cover of The Giver:
    Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.
     When Jonas turns twelve he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it's time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

It combines aspects of Brave New World and 1984 with banned books, big brother (in speakers), and lots of "soma" type medication to keep from feeling. jobs are assigned as are spouses.

Babies are born to birthmothers - with no mention of the means of conception - who remain faceless and voiceless, totally unimportant characters, and fathers or sperm donors invisibly non-existent. The babies are raised communally until given to families: one boy and one girl each.

When Lily expresses a desire to be a birthmother some day her mother responds sharply:
"Don't say that. There's very little honor in that Assignment."

"But," Lily counters that she had heard that "Birthmothers get wonderful food, and they have very gentle exercise periods, and most of the time they just plat games and amuse themselves while they're waiting. I think I'd like that."

"Three years," Mother told her firmly.  "Three births, and that's all. After that they are Laborers for the rest of their adult lives, until they enter the House of the old. Is that what you want, lily?  Three lazy years, and then hard physical labor until you are old?"
"Well, no. I gues not,' Lily acknowledged reluctantly.
Language is important but is very sanitized, as are all expression of emotion. in this well ordered and oderly life.  It is said that Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism; Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.  The Giver's world fears memories while at the same time recognizing them as the vital foundation of wisdom. Lowry has said she thinks it a moral book that makes young people think.

The Giver is a book about love and family and connectedness. It is about truth and knowing one's personal history and respecting heritage....and memories.


Amanda said...

When I was in school, it was a banned book. Not sure if it still is. I went to a private school so we were able to read it any way.

Anonymous said...

My daughter read this is 5th grade.

The same school assigns family tree assignments.

If only those of us who were adopted and our children, and our grandchildren had family histories that the State of California felt valuable enough to assign to us.

But, we must read these books and be assigned these assignments and every time feel like a part of your heart has been ripped out because you are considered "unworthy".

Haigha said...

"Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us."
Orwell, who burned away the names of his adopted son Richard's biological parents from his birth certificate with a cigarette.

JBH said...

I read this out loud to one of my classes of fifth graders. It was about 7 years ago, and I was living in Japan (it was an international christian school). I love this fictional work and we did have some good "moral" discussion about it.

I did not even notice the birthmother language when I read it long ago. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Mirah Riben said...

Later in the book there is a scene in the House of the Old where an old person speaks of the "boring" life a birthmother had and that she wasn't very bright.

It was clear is was a low level job assignment for those with less skills or talent to offer. It seemed they were not very aware of genetics at all in this "future" civilization, although there is one odd comment made by a child about two boys both having very pale eyes and suggesting they may have both been born to the same birthmother!

Re read it!! Others, get it at your library!

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget