Let me start off by saying one thing.
I love Utopias/Dystopias. I think the ideas and themes are interesting. I enjoy figuring out the social structure. I bask in the glow of the twisted history they possess.
Actually reading Utopian Literature…….not so much.
Even starting with Thomas Moore’s Utopia, I have always found them to be incredibly dull. (As far as story and plot are concerned.) Utopia reads more like a history text book than anything. (I know that is what the author was going for.) The scenarios presented are indeed interesting, but not exciting.
There are only two Utopias/Dystopias that I have enjoyed reading about. Ironically, because they do the exact opposite of Moore’s original. While Moore’s work was long, expansive, and detailed. These are more general or only specific in the core aspects of the society.
The short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin will be our transition before getting into the meat of The Giver. “Omelas” is a very simple and basic concept. It describes the city in ideal detail (only taking up a few pages), but then in the last few paragraphs it describes the Dystopian side of Omelas and then concludes. This is a smack to the face with brevity. It is quick and to the point. There is no dialogue and only one character is really given any attention.
And it is one of the best short stories I have ever read. I compare all other Utopias to this one as my measuring stick. (Even the book Utopia.) It is quick and to the point, and that works very well. You can feel the importance of every word and letter. It is an excellently crafted piece of word-art.
The Giver by Lois Lowrystill gives less information than a tome like Utopia, but what it tells us captures us and leaves us wanting more. The way Lowry accomplishes this is by giving us a personal connection through a wonderful Main Character.
Main Character: Jonas.
Jonas is a twelve year-old boy living in a Utopia known simply as The Community. The story is told through his perspective and we see things as he goes through life. Like all Twelves in The Community, Jonas is assigned a position in the work force. Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver as the old one is…..old. The Receiver’s job is to pass on advice based on the memories of the world before The Community became a Utopia. This is where Jonas’s journey begins in force. For his previous years, Jonas was ignorant of the world around him, and we are ignorant of it too. As he receives memories from The Giver (The former Receiver), Jonas begins to piece together the faults in his society. (And so do we.) To this end, Jonas is more than just himself. He is us. We learn what he learns, experience what he experiences. It pulls us in and connects us to him, but still keeps him as his own character. Further, he is a very well grounded character as he is able to portray a realistic reaction to the world around him, as well as his new perception of it.
Supporting Characters: The Giver, Father, Mother, Lily, Classmates, Gabe.
This book could also be a story of relationships. Through Jonas’s eyes, we see the connections he has with others and how those connections change, or completely break, as the story goes on.
First is The Giver himself. The Giver himself starts off as an intimidating figure in Jonas’s new life as an “adult” in the Community. Eventually, The Giver fits into the typical Mentor role, but it works very well because of the relationship built between the two characters of Jonas and The Giver.
Next, we will talk about Jonas’s Family. They are incredibly……bland. I don’t mean boring, but more like the neighbors in “Leave it to Beaver,” or “The Brady Bunch.” There is no emotional depth to them. Which is actually what works for the book. It points out the shallowness of it all. And at first it just seems cheesy, but as you read you realize how twisted it really is for his family to be like that. Lily is probably the second most interesting member of his family, but only because she sort-of works as a foil for Jonas. Sort-of…..
Jonas’s classmates are also kind of bland and blank characters. They aren’t particularly interesting. Nor should they be. The focus should be, and is, on Jonas and how he relates to them. At first it is a good (albeit shallow) friendship. I do wish that they had explored the relationship with Fiona a bit more. Maybe have Jonas take her with him at the end, but I don’t know. That’s just the romantic in me talking.
Last is Gabe. He works as a symbol for innocence and future hope. He is untouched by the Community, but is in the most jeopardy. He is more of a device, but he’s a baby. He can’t really participate in dialogue.
I had several parts that I liked.
First, I liked the scene during the ceremony of Twelve. You can feel the anxiety of the crowd, but especially with Jonas.
Second, I like the Community’s level of manners. It is so nice, but so creepy.
Third, the father and the twin. That is all I will say. That was the perfect way to convince Jonas.
This book is wonderful. I highly recommend this to anyone.