Pablo Picasso once said that “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” However, a world with neither colors nor emotions would be quite unbearable. And, to make the situation worse, one could not decide for themselves, of who they wanted to be. This was life for a twelve-year old boy named Jonas in the dystopian novel, The Giver by Lois Lowry copyrighted 1993. When Jonas becomes the chosen one, wisdom of emotions and choices was bestowed upon him. Jonas finally understands that the Community in which he lived in was missing vital aspects of life: feelings and the freedom of choice. Throughout her plot, Lois Lowry explains how without these, one cannot truly live life. In addition, Lois Lowry explains that any Individual, like Jonas, has specific skills embedded in them that decide their future.
Feelings and emotions include simple things you may go through everyday: exhilaration, anguish, love, jubilation, fury, etc. But in the Community, no one knows what these honestly are because they have never actually been through it. On page 159, when Jonas learns that genuine feelings are absolutely pointless, he asks his parents, “Do you love me?” to which his mother and father respond that love is “so meaningless that it’s become almost obsolete.” This conversation between Jonas and his parents indicate that feelings are not evident in the Community. People in the Community have not perceived the warmth in love or the lessons of anger. This means that they are missing a huge chunk of what life really is. I also believe that as we, today, have the privilege of experiencing emotions, we should find the positive aspects of every emotion, whether happiness or sadness.
Most middle schoolers today are pondering on what majors in college would appeal to them, the career path they want to pursue, and also what kind of person they desire to be. We take the freedom to make these choices for granted, but in The Giver, residents of the Community do not have the advantage of making their own decisions. For example, the Elders’ Council “matches” spouses, chooses child names, and “assigns” jobs to the people of the Community. On page 124, the author shows Jonas’s frustration over the freedom of choice: “He found that he was often angry at his groupmates, that they were satisfied with their lives which had none if the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.” This quote expresses that the people of the Community neither had the freedom to make their own decisions and neither knew that their was such a thing. And, when Jonas discovers this, he realizes how vibrant and different life can actually be with such freedom. From this, I was able to infer that being able to make our own choices is necessary to genuinely live, and our society today thrives on this freedom.
Though the Community lacks multiple factors of life, the ways of the Community emphasizes the skills of every Individual. In Jonas’s world, the assignment of jobs are made with extreme care and years of meticulous observation. When, during the Ceremony of Twelves, Assignments are given on page 65, the Chief Elder says, “This is the time we acknowledge our differences. You Elevens have spent all your years until now learning to fit in, to standardize your behavior, to curb any impulse that might set you apart from the group.
“But today we honor your differences. They have determined your futures.”
The Chief Elder’s speech explains her thoughts on how every Individual’s differences are vital to have a well functioning society. Although because of the practice of assigning jobs, the Community runs like a factory as every person, like machines, are perfected in their jobs, it is my belief that we can continue to honor differences by allowing people to choose their own jobs. Adolescents in today’s world, try hard to fit in and avoid standing out, but the distinct variety of personalities and interests are what shape the future. An important lesson indirectly stated in this novel is that an Individual’s uniqueness should be highly appreciated and valued.
Experiencing emotions, having the freedom of choice, and valuing differences are the most powerful themes of The Giver. These messages are true and are necessary components of life. The view of the future that The Giver presents is unique and quite the unthinkable. Overall, this book is full of vivid imagination and has a sturdy plot. This book appeals to me because I enjoy how the author contrasts life in the Community with life today by making Jonas stand out and feel what we feel today. In my strong belief, the most beautiful part of this novel is how the reader is able to experience the fury and the pain Jonas feels in his memories and about the Community. Middle-schoolers should definitely read this book as Jonas is a middle-schooler as well and we can relate to him. As the New York Times calls it, The Giver is “a powerful and provocative novel.”