The Giver by Lois Lowry

The plot for The Giver is very fresh and original. Children’s Literature states that, “The plot is the plan of action; it tells what the characters do and what happened to them”(3rd edition, pg.10). The Giver starts off in a society where a boy name Jonas lives. The main conflict is man vs. society. Jonas is in constant conflict with the way society is ran. In the community, when a child turns 12 they become an adult and are given there career. Jonas has no idea what his career is going to be, which worries him very much. He also makes the decision to leave the community because he does not agree with the way in is ran. He also makes the choice to save Gabriel from being released. Man vs. man is another conflict in The Giver. Jonas is conflicted because the Giver won’t share his memories with the rest of the community. The last conflict is Man vs. self. As Jonas gains more memories and knowledge, he struggles with the concept of ‘release’. Jonas finally figures out that release means death, when he sees the video of the smaller twin being killed.

The rising action occurs when the ceremony of the twelves began. Jonas’s number is skipped, which created great inner turmoil, and eventually he was elected as the new Receiver of Memory. He makes the decision to stand up to his community.The climax of the story starts off when Jonas learns the true meaning of the word ‘release’. Jonas then realizes what the entire community is truly about, and the sacrifices they make to achieve sameness. The falling action is reached when Jonas makes the plan to leave the community. His plans change suddenly when he decides to bring Gabriel along with him to Elsewhere. The ending of The Giver leaves you questioning what really happened. The reader either believes that the Jonas and Gabriel are dead from the freezing snow, or that they survive and ride down the hill with the sled Jonas once received a memory of. This book holds a plot where choices are not easily made, and obstacles are hard to overcome.

Characterization

Characterization in The Giver was done through narration. We only know was Jonas knows, and we experience the characters how Jonas does. Everyone else knows nothing about what is really happening in their world and they just go along with their special way of life. Children’s Literature states that, “the people portrayed in children’s books should be as convincingly real and lifelike as our next door neighbors.” Lois Lowry does exactly this with every single one of the characters she introduced. Jonas is the protagonist whose strength is that he wants to know more and is also questioning. Lily is Jonas’s sister, who is very excited about growing up. Jonas’s Mother is a Lawyer, while his Father is a caretaker. His father brings home Gabriel, who Jonas grows attached to. Asher is Jonas’s best friend, who is always having fun but has trouble with his words. Fiona is also Jonas’s friend who he grows very fond of. Lastly, the Giver is the man who gives Jonas all of his memories so he can become the new receiver. Lily, Jonas’s mother and father, Asher, and Fiona are all secondary characters. They are one-dimensional and only experience small changes throughout the novel. Jonas and the Giver are primary characters, because they are more dynamic and rounded. The behaviors of each of these characters other than Jonas stay consistent throughout the entire story. Jonas, being the protagonist, is different from the rest of his friends and shows great development throughout the novel. After becoming the receiver Jonas wants people to have a choice in their way of life, and he doesnt think it is fair that they had this choice taken away from them. Jonas Proves this when he is talking to gebriel, he states, “Things could change, Gabe,’ Jonas went on. “Things could be different. I don’t know how, but there must be some way for things to be different. There could be colors. And grandparents,’ he added, staring through the dimness toward the ceiling of his sleeping room. ‘And everybody would have the memories.’ This statement proves that Jones cared deeply about the community and wanted there to be change. The Giver and Jonas are the only ones that truly develop, because they realize that it is time for their community to change.

Setting

The Giver is set in a community that is in a dystopian society. Children’s Literature states that, “the structure of a story includes both the construction of the plot and its setting”(3rd edition, pg. 10). Lois Lowry does just this by molding the plot and the setting together to help the reader feel like they are a part of the story. It seems that the story is sometime in the future, since some of the memories are of our world today. For example, one of the memories is of elephants being poached, this is a very real problem in today’s world. The setting of the Giver is normal until Jonas begins to question things. This community contains elements that we are familiar with, but puts a twist on what we conceive as normal. For example, Jonas has a family and a sister, but this family is picked out by the elders. He also goes to school and learns about what normal kids would learn about, but he must apologize for not using precise language. The author does not indicate time, other that birthdays and when Jonas is getting ready to leave.

Point of View

The point of view of The Giver is told through Jonas. It is 3rd person limited, because we only know what Jonas knows. Children’s Literature states that, “the author chooses to stand behind one character , to to speak, and tell the story from over his or hers shoulder. The story is then limited to what the character can hear, see, believe, feel, and understand. The point of view is limited to what Jonas thinks and observes. We see everything from Jonas’s eyes and don’t know anything that he doesn’t. It is consistent throughout the entire story. I think Lois Lowry chose this point of view because she wanted us to feel like Jonas did. She wanted us to experience how Jonas felt when he found out the community’s way of life is all a lie, and how he felt betrayed. If the story was told in any other point of view there would be less impact and the reader wouldn’t develop the same emotions.

Theme

Children’s Literature states that, “The theme of a book reveals something of the author’s purpose in writing the story and provides a dimension to the story that goes beyond the action of the plot”(3rd edition, pg 10). The main underlying theme that stands out is choice. Throughout the story we see that Jonas and the rest of society have no choice in their way of life. The Elders make every decision for them to achieve sameness. They make decisions that they feel are the best for the community. These decisions include; suppressing dreams with medication, choosing families and jobs, no color, and every child ages the same. The Elders take away any choice that the people may have because they think it is what is best to prevent any disasters. Once Jonas becomes the new Receiver, he starts to question why people can’t make their own choices. The ability to make choices is a “significant truth” that gives children insight into the consequences of not having choice and how making the right choices can be beneficial.

Style

Children’s Literature states, “Good writing style is appropriate to the plot, theme, and characters, both creating and reflecting the mood of the story.” Lois Lowry does exactly this by using excellent placement of figurative language and imagery. On page 97 Jonas talks about, “the bright orange pumpkin being trucked in from the agriculture fields beyond the community boundary-see in an instant, the flash of brilliant color, but gone again, returning to their flat hueless shade.” This combination of words using imagery can help guide you throughout the story.

Style: Imagery

When Jonas discovers that he is the new receiver the use of imagery becomes a lot more prevalent. Lois Lowry uses imagery to help the reader understand what Jonas is seeing and feeling. Most use of imagery occured when the Giver transmits memories to Jonas, this way he can keep them for the community. One one the first memories Jonas received was of snow. Lowry used imagery to explain how Jonas could “see a bright, whirling torrent of crystals in the air around him, and he could see them gather on the backs of his hands, like cold fur”(Lowry, pg. 81). There are several examples of imagery throughout The Giver that make the reader feel like they are a part of the story.

Style: Figurative Language

Figurative language can be used to make a text have more impact on the reader, as well as provide more insight. Figures of speech can include; personification, similes, metaphors, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration etc.

Personification: Personification is giving human attributes to something that is not human. This is not used often throughout The Giver, but it does occur. For example, when Jonas had his first stirring he tried to remember the dream but “the dream slipped away from his thoughts.” Dreams can not just slip in and out of the mind, therefore this was a good use of personification.

Simile: Simile is the comparison of two things that are not alike, using the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’ One example of simile I noticed while reading The Giver was, “They acted like… like Animals’ Jonas suggested.” This is simile because Jonas was helping Lilly compare the other community’s behavior to animals, by using ‘like’.

Metaphor: A metaphor is described as comparing to things that are not alike. In Chapter 3 of The Giver Jonas describes a new child with lighter eyes, “seeing the newchild and its expression, he was reminded that the light eyes were not only a rarity but gave the one who had them a certain look- what was it? Depth, he decided; as if one was looking into the clear water of the river.” This can be perceived as a metaphor because the child and Jonas are being compared for their light colored eyes, and are viewed differently because of them. This can be a metaphor for how they both see things in the community differently than everyone else.

Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a type of speech that’s meaning means something different that what is given. For example, Jonas states, “I’m starving,” but gets in trouble because he is not using the correct language. Jonas does not mean he is literally starving, he is just hungry. “No one in the community was starving, had ever been starving, or would ever be starving” (Lowry, pg 70).

Onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia is defined as the formation of a word from a sound associated with its name. In The Giver Jonas “reached for the heavy handle, then noticed a buzzer on the wall. So he buzzed instead.” ‘Buzzed’ is a good use of onomatopoeia.

Alliteration: Alliteration is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of closely connected words. The Giver does not have many examples of alliteration but some are present. For example, “he waited, but the man did not give the standard accepting-of-apology response” (Lowry, pg 75). This is a simple use of alliteration.

Style: Dictation

Diction is described as the style of speaking or writing. Lowry’s writing uses proper dictation to get her story across, and the message is clear to the reader. Text is used that represents a modern take on the dystopian society, however words like obey, released, and elsewhere represent that the story is not dictated in present time.The dictation in The Giver reflects the tone and moods that Lowry sets early in the story.

Style: Tone

The tone is slow pace and hopeful until he becomes the receiver. For example, in chapter two Jonas’s father states, “every december was exciting to me when I was young. And it has been for you and Lily, too, Im sure. Each december brings such changes,” this expresses hope and excitement in the community (Lowry, pg 11). As the story progresses the tone becomes more serious. The way the tone changes helps the reader truly understand how Jonas is feeling as these sudden changes are happening in his life. At the very end of the story the tone is more depressing because Jonas is running out of memories and the coldness is starting to take over. “The memory was agonizing brief. He had trudged no more than a few yards through the night when it was gone and they were cold again” (Lowry, pg 177). This sentence stated by Jonas, uses words like ‘agonizing’ and ‘trudged’ to depict the tone.

Evaluation/Interpretations/Reader Response:

The Giver by Lois Lowry is a well-written book, that I felt was easy to understand but still had a deeper meaning within the story. After I finished reading the book my first thought was that Jonas and Gabriel had died. I believed that the last statement, “perhaps it was only an echo” meant that Jonas was slowly passing out as his last memory faded away. After further thinking and research I realized my accusation was incorrect and that Jonas made it to Elsewhere. Whether you think they died or not, Jonas’s journey was a heroic one. If he died, he would have done so in name of saving the entire community from ‘sameness’. But if he lived he had survived the treacherous journey and still saved the entire community, as well as Gabriel. The fact that Lowry gave us and ending that left us questioning, just adds more to the story, and to the fact that Jonas had been questioning everything after he became the Receiver. You are left to make your own interpretation. The entire book you are left wondering and questioning ‘why?’, so why not end the book the same way?

When asked “what does is mean to be human?” I believe The Giver answers this in a very interesting way. Lowry focusing in on the importance of memory and choices in society, by taking them all away. The people within the community do not truly know what it means to be humans, because they have not endured the experiences or feelings that come with humanity. Without our memories of the past, we will not be able to make the right choices, as humans, in the future. Our memories make us who we are and make each of us unique. In The Giver, Lowry takes away the memories and choices making every single person the same. We get to see how even the most “perfect” society has its flaws. As humans we need to be able to learn from our mistakes, and each of our individual experiences and feelings about the world make us who we are. The absence of memories and choices would make us mindless just like most of the characters we encounter throughout The Giver. They have never truly been introduced to what it really means to be human.

I truly believe that this is a great book for children. There is an element of hope throughout the whole story. A hope that Jonas will rise to the top, hope that he will save the community, and hope that him and Gabriel will survive. When Jonas leaves the community he finally makes his first individual choice, and this can show the reader that your own decisions can help you live a better life rather than being held back from your past. This story is powerful because it leaves the ending up to the reader. This gives the children the decision, and lets them put their own meaning behind the story. It is ironic that the entire community does not get a choice in the book, but in the ending the reader is given a choice on whether they survive or not.. This novel can stretch the mind of it’s readers, but is still enjoyable.