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President Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States of America, once said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” President Reagan would have been miserable living in the world as it is portrayed in The Giver by Lois Lowry.

The latest to rise to the level of the conversation starter is The Giver, a fiction novel. It takes people through an exploration of what is humanity and the importance of the past in shaping our society. They try to picture themselves as a utopia, but is essentially a dystopia, in which essential decisions about work, relationships, preferences, and family are made not by the individual, but by elders who think that they are meant to be wiser than the rest. The Giver presents us with a world where war, poverty, crime, and suffering have been eliminated. In this utopian community, people strive to maintain “Sameness” where everyone and everything is equal and the same. But the reader quickly knows that something is wrong with this supposedly perfect society. Memories of basic human emotions, such as love, hate, and empathy have been eliminated in the community, including art, music, literature, and even color, and have also been completely erased. Those who refused to follow the law or weren’t fit for the community were “released”, which is killing. Both the best and the worst memories of the community are instead stored within the mind of the Receiver, which happens to be the protagonist, Jonas, a twelve-year-old boy. After Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver (to receive the memories that the community doesn’t want to keep to ensure wisdom), he realizes the vast cost that his community needs to achieve total perfection. To maintain this environment of perfection, a Committee of Elders controls people’s lifestyles down to the last detail to prevent them from making the “wrong choices.” Everything from a person’s job to one’s spouse is planned and assigned by the government since they are young. In addition, people were “considered rude to call attention to things that were unsettling or different about individuals.” Absolute perfection was finally achieved but at the heavy price of individualism. He learns that all memories come back to the community when the Receiver leaves. He sacrifices his life by leaving the community so his community would realize the importance of humanity. He wants his community members to know that the only way to live a full life is to feel good and bad- all memories. Jonas ultimately goes through a dangerous escape and sacrifices his life for the sake of his community. Many other themes and messages are brought to light in the novel. It showcases how important it is to know your true identity and how wisdom and knowledge is a key factor that influences your future actions. By illuminating these issues to the reader, Lowry educates them on how these messages are essential, for they could eventually experience a similar situation in the future. This book was written to teach readers ways to view the world differently and change it for the better of everyone’s freedom.

A message that Lowry tries to communicate to us is the importance of freedom. People often belittle the power and privilege they have to be able to make their own choices in life. In the novel, Lowry highlights the negative effects of being controlled in a society where people are forbidden from even having basic rights. They are completely blind to the evil Committee of Elders and what a true community is. The choice is a freedom that is undeniable and there anyway. They must all follow a set of strict rules from the Book of Rules; otherwise, they will suffer unreasonable consequences such as “release”. They have zero control over anything! They are being ripped apart from their freedom. Jonas expresses his bitter perspective on the lack of choice the community has. Jonas is wise enough to want “to wake up in the morning and decide things.” (123). Mother even tells Lily (Jonas’s sister) to learn to separate herself from her comfort object (which is her favorite stuffed animal) because she “[is] very close to being an Eight” (23). These show a clear example of a rule the community has created to prevent feelings at a young age. By taking away this comfort toy, they are teaching the community to forget their feelings one by one until there are none left. Jonas shows how frustrating it is to watch communities suffer in a life they don’t deserve; this then leads them to disobey the rules, like Jonas with his plan to escape. This then leads back to why there are many negative outcomes from feeling trapped and isolated. They reinforce the importance of Lowry’s words so we will forever experience all that makes us human.

It is significant to understand the meaning of identity and how it impacts and makes us unique as individuals. When people are unable to experience pain, their individuality is gone forever. Memories are vital because they often include pain, and pain is an individual reaction: What is painful to one person might not be painful to another person. Also, people learn from memories and gain wisdom from remembering past experiences. Life in Jonas’ community is very predictable, unchanging, and boring to the average human in our society. So are most of the people who live in the community. These characters are uncomplicated. They are static, simple, one-dimensional characters. Because the majority of them do not change throughout the novel, we see only one part of their personalities — their surface appearances and actions. People are so much more than their looks and feelings on the outside. But today, we all know- at least most of us know, the memories and feelings that will influence us forever. “Memories are forever,” no matter how hard we try to blow the truth away (180). They will never be lost. They will carve out our identity for us. We aren’t always supposed to do what we are told. Nothing has ever happened to them except when an earlier Receiver-in-training, Rosemary, asked for release because she no longer could tolerate the rules and memories in the community. After her death, the people were in chaos because they didn’t know what to do with the memories that Rosemary had experienced. They were not accustomed to thinking for themselves. That means that they will be forever dependent on the community. Afterward, they resumed their lives as before, so it is evident that nothing changed. Jonas, on the other hand, is a dynamic character. He changes during the novel due to his memories from The Giver. When the novel begins, Jonas is as unconcerned as anyone else about how the community runs. He grew up with rules, precise language, and a family that was not connected biologically, and he accepted this way of life because he didn’t know any other type of community. But as he receives memories and wisdom, he learns the truth about his community, that it is a communist community, and that the people have given up their individuality and freedom to live as robots and puppets. Jonas’s character therefore changes and becomes more dynamic. Jonas is bombarded with conflicts from his feelings and the intentions of his community. He experiences an inner conflict because he learns that memories are so hard to bear. When you are a child, you have fun and are always viewed as an innocent kid. However, as he learns to grow up and “accept” joy, color, and love, Jonas feels like he really “liked the feeling of love” and “[wished they] still had that” (158). Everybody has the right to feel love. Living with people who are biologically related to you but are unique in their way is a beauty to experience. It opens you up to reality and can inspire you to become a better person. Jonas also is frustrated and angry because he wants his fellow loved ones to change and give up Sameness. He knows that each community member’s life will live fully if only they would — or could — reclaim their individuality. But the people never change. Now, they know no other democratic society. This proves the message the author is trying to promote: We are all special. The world needs people to be different to provide different perspectives on the world. These important lessons, that Lowry transfers to us, are words that will one day become memories that will be a pathway to wisdom.

A message the author is trying to communicate to the reader is how wisdom and knowledge impact your life. Wisdom and knowledge are needed to give you a different perspective on how you see actions and the way you choose to approach situations. The novel shows how someone who knows is someone who has power and power comes with big responsibilities. That is why the Giver always tells Jonas that he has honor, not power. Wisdom allows someone to learn something and apply it to future issues. Knowledge is needed to create a society with people that can help our society. In the novel, the Giver (the previous Receiver of Memory, who gives memories to Jonas to keep) and Jonas have a prime responsibility to carry memories of the community. Jonas has no choice but to be the Receiver and receive memories that he has never experienced before. The rest of the community still believes in the Elders. Even the Giver, whom Jonas considers his best friend, loses the memories that he gives to Jonas. The Giver said that he had to hold all the pain while the Committee of Elders “‘just seek the advice’” and constantly relied on the Giver to maintain perfection (141). This quote shows how knowledge plays a key part in avoiding mistakes and incidents that have happened in the past. Without the Giver, the community wouldn’t even know how to maintain perfection because they don’t know how to control perfection. Even though the Elders would like to call themselves “a perfect community”, there will always be gaps that will be slowly opened up to reveal the many small flaws of the community. Jonas didn’t even know what release meant. Everything is covered up to brainwash the community. The release is meant to cover up the meaning of death. From the share of memories Jonas has received, he experiences the feeling of shock and fear when he realizes as to what release means. He saw the innocent face of the baby after it was released. It was “no longer crying, [with] arms and legs moving in a jerking motion, head to the side, and eyes half-open” (187). Without wisdom, Jonas would be just like his father, brainwashed into the horrors of society. Humans have a heart, and no matter if that person does a good or bad deed, the heart is the first to feel true reactions and regret. If we listen to these messages from Lowry, we will be sure to use our rights and feelings purely, without people controlling us. The author successfully shares this message to readers about how being knowledgeable is extremely honored in a community where everything is covered up with the illusion of perfection. Wisdom and knowledge are important lessons, so that reinforces the meaning of the lessons Lowry is trying to teach us.

Convincing readers that perfection is not quality is something that not all readers can take in. Some might say that living in a society like the one in the book ensures perfection because each person is responsible for a job that benefits the whole. All people are treated in the same way and valued for their jobs. The claims from the other side of this argument are flawed because they are exaggerated and are made by those who can’t face society. However, some people still don’t believe my argument. On one hand, the residents of the community lack none of the essentials to live – they are clothed, fed, educated, and given jobs to work on. On the other hand, they lead colorless lives and have no chance to make their own choices of important stages in their life to live in their own way. They know nothing about colors, which are key to emotions. Colors influence us on so many things. We can be influenced culturally and in our writing. Color communicates so much. It has the power to convey moods and feelings like when people say, “He was green with envy,” “I’m feeling blue” or “She was red hot, she was so mad.” These are common in all our society. Color is used to organize life and bring order, like stop lights, yellow versus white directional stripes on the road, or when some very organized people color codes things everything from books to Tupperware. They are also clueless about the meaning of death because even their death date is decided for them. Jonas felt so hopeless after the Giver transmitted to him the memory of death, that “he didn’t want the memories,…the honor,…the wisdom,…[or] the pain” (152). He felt like this was too much for him, but he was forced to take this job and keep it. They follow like sheep and slavishly obey the rules of the community without really knowing why. Their individuality is stripped from them around the age of 12; they are absorbed into the collective and then dispatched when their usefulness has ended. In the context of the current culture, the book will have an impact because it demonstrates the consequences of living in a society where the select few – even if they have the most benevolent of intentions – are allowed to make binding decisions for the rest of the community. The rationale for all this, as one character explains about the organization of their post-apocalyptic utopia, is that when people are allowed to make choices, they invariably make the wrong ones. The memorable quote on page 162 of Jonas speaking to Gabe, “There could be love,” shows that this country can have brotherly love. This country can care for one another. That in times of sadness and conflict, one can love one another. Americans still fundamentally care for each other despite political differences, but persistent biases of many kinds may be preventing many Americans from caring for those who are different from them—and may impede a path to unity. That, with all its lack of subtlety, is not only at the core of Lowry’s book but at the cultural and political divide in contemporary America. If there are no winners, there are no losers – but who wants to live in a world where everything and everyone is equal and, outside the limits of our bodies, essentially the same? The difference between equality of opportunity and equality of result – is a bridge not easily crossed.

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Living in a utopian community simply deprives us of our ability to gain the wisdom we need for the present. Having freedom is certainly full of dark realities. Slavery, racism, misogyny, and other forms of oppression have been prominent in this country for a long time. Many of America’s founders and other key figures had major flaws.

But should we just eliminate their memory?

No. We need to remember and learn from our past.

By challenging this book, it shows we are not in any way different from Jonas’s community- refusing to accept new ideas and the truth. If we wanted a healthy perspective of the world, it simply wouldn’t work. You need pain to experience joy. She illuminates what happens when we eradicate what makes us human. The truth is that we are not facing anyone. We have to ultimately face history and ourselves. We won’t realize the nuances of freedom if we don’t recognize that although our ancestors had imperfections, we are standing on their shoulders.

In effect, Lowry teaches her audience lessons by disguising them throughout the story. She teaches us the lessons that take years to realize, such as the importance of choices, identity, wisdom, and knowledge, and the appreciation we should have for our freedom. The lesson that The Giver teaches could become useful to our society, for we could witness comparable circumstances in the future. These themes and messages give readers an idea and understanding of the rules. It reminds us that no matter how much our society is endeavoring to wipe out the past, there are memories and feelings that we need to remember. The future depends upon it. As a child-friendly book, The Giver will hopefully start a national, multi-generational conversation about what we owe to ourselves, what we owe to others, and how much personal freedom it is appropriate to surrender in exchange for security.

The philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote the oft-repeated warning, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

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