Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry

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I choose to end this year by reading The Giver by Lois Lowry once again. I think this is about the third time I've read this book and every time I fall in love with it all over again.

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"The Giver" is set in an alternate world where everything is strictly controlled, from the day's routine to the job and spouse you will one day obtain. Everything is perfect and everyone has their place. However, something is missing. Jonas never knew what that was until he was assigned a special occupation as The Receiver at the age of twelve. His training is from The Giver, an older man who alone holds the memories of everything that came before the only community Jonas has ever known. These memories become Jonas's burden to bear as he experiences true pleasure and pain for the first time. Now that he knows the truth there is no turning back, only a question...Can there be change?

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Jonas frowned. "I wish we had those things, still. Just now and then."
The old man smiled. "So do I," he said. "But that choice is not ours."
"But sir," Jonas suggested, "since you have so much power --"
The man corrected him. "Honor," he said firmly. "I have great honor. So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power."

Jonas wasn't interested, just then, in wisdom. It was the colors that fascinated him. "Why can't everyone see them? Why did colors disappear?"
The Giver shrugged. "Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences." He thought for a moment. "We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others." .
"We shouldn't have!" Jonas said fiercely.
The Giver looked started at the certainty of Jonas's reaction. Then he smiled wryly. "You've come very quickly to that conclusion," he said. "It took me many years. Maybe your wisdom will come much more quickly than mine."

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The Giver told him that it would be a very long time before he had the colors to keep.
"But I want them!" Jonas said angrily. "It isn't fair that nothing has color!"
"Not fair?" The Giver looked at Jonas curiously. "Explain what you mean."
"Well..." Jonas had to stop and think it through. "If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?"
He looked down at himself, at the colorless fabric of his clothing, "But it's all the same, always."
Then he laughed a little. "I know it's not important what you wear. I doesn't matter. But --"
"It's the choosing that's important, isn't it?" The Giver asked him.

"We don't dare to let people make choices of their own."
"Not safe?" The Giver suggested.
"Definitely not safe, " Jonas said with certainty. "What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong?"
"Or what if," he went on, almost laughing at the absurdity, "they chose their own jobs?"
"Frightening, isn't it?" The Giver said.
Jonas chuckled. "Very frightening. I can't even imagine it. We really have to protect people from wrong choices."
"It's safer."
"Yes," Jonas agreed. "Much safer."
But when the conversation turned to other things, Jonas was left, still, with a feeling of frustration that he didn't understand.

Jonas thought about it, about what it would be like for him. "Along with walking and eating and --" He looked around the walls of books. "Reading? That's it?"
The Giver shook his head. "Those are simply the things that I do. My life is here."
"In this room?"
The Giver shook his head. He put his hands to his own face, to his chest. "No. Here, in my being. Where the memories are."

"They know nothing," The Giver said bitterly...
The Giver flicked his hand as if brushing something aside. "Oh your instructors are well trained. They know their scientific facts. Everyone is well trained for his job.
"It's just that...without the memories it's all meaningless. They gave that burden to me. And to the previous Receiver. And the one before him."
"And back and back and back," Jonas said, knowing the phrase that always came.
The Giver smiled, though the smile was oddly harsh. "That's right. And next it will be you. A great honor."
"Yes, sir. They told me at the Ceremony. The very highest honor."

They have never known pain, he thought. The realization made him feel desperately lonely, and he rubbed his throbbing leg. He eventually slept. Again and again he dreamed of the anguish and the isolation on the forsaken hill.

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"But why can't everyone have the memories? I think it would seem a little easier if the memories were shared. You and I wouldn't have to bear so much by ourselves, if everybody took a part."
The Giver sighed. "You're right," he said. "But then everyone would be burdened and pained. They don't want that. And that's the real reason The Receiver is so vital to them, and so honored. They selected me--and you--to life that burden from themselves."
"When did they decide that?" Jonas asked angrily. "It wasn't fair. Let's change it!"
"The decision was made long before my time or yours," The Giver said, "and before the previous Receiver, and--" He waited.
"Back and back and back." Jonas repeated the familiar phrase. Sometimes it had seemed humorous to him. Sometimes it had seemed meaningful and important.
Now it was ominous. It meant, he knew, that nothing could be changed.

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Jonas nodded. "I liked the feeling of love," he confessed..."I wish we still had that," he whispered. "Of course," he added quickly, "I do understand that it wouldn't work very well. And that it's much better to be organized the way we are now. I can see that it was a dangerous way to live."

"Do you love me?"
There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!"
"What do you mean?" Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.
"Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete," his mother explained carefully.
Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory.
"And of course our community can't function smoothly if people don't use precise language. You could ask, 'Do you enjoy me?' The answer is 'Yes,'" his mother said.
"Or," his father suggested, "'Do you take pride in my accomplishments?' And the answer is wholeheartedly 'Yes.'"
"Do you understand why it's inappropriate to use a word like 'love'?" Mother asked.
Jonas nodded. "Yes, thank you, I do," he replied slowly.
It was his first lie to his parents.

For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps, it was only an echo."

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I have yet to see The Giver movie starring Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. I look forward to it though, especially with such a rave review from author Lois Lowry (seen above). "The Giver" is now available to own on DVD, though I believe I may rent it through Amazon first. I'll let you know how the movie is when I get around to doing just that.

This is an amazing book that I would highly recommend. In a way, Lowry was ahead of her time considering the large volume of future dystopian novels out now including Hunger Games, Divergent and Uglies. Nonetheless, it carries a similar message. Our society tried to make life better for everyone and somewhere along the way took the life right out of living. It makes you stop and realize how good we really do have it. There are copious amounts of hate and violence, but even among the worst of it there are brilliant rays of hope and love. The good cannot live without the bad and vice versa. The Giver encourages me to stand up for what I believe in and to not take one seemingly insignificant moment for granted. It inspires me to live everyday to the fullest and love with all my heart.

I hope this novel will inspire you too. Read'll be glad you did.

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