I am beginning to think that I’m the only person I know who hadn’t read The Giver, having spent my childhood reading alternate dystopian classics like The Chrysalids (although arguably sci fi), Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984 (also published as Nineteen Eighty-Four). But with The Giver film coming out soon (yeah for Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep!), I thought I should give the book a shot. In what some call the original Dystopian children’s book, The Giver offers its readers a simple escapist route in the form of a frightening future society.
Initially, I didn’t realize The Giver was such an accessible, simple novella and I was a bit disappointed at the simplicity of the story. But as I read on, I realized that it’s that simplicity and accessible nature that makes it stand out. The society we read about in The Giver isn’t much different from other post-apocalyptic or Utopian vs. Dystopian tales, but there is something rare and unique about the main character, Jonas, and how he gradually decides to fight the system he’s been born into.
Jonas is given a job in the society called The Receiver. In this position, all memories from a world before his time are relayed to him by the soon-to-be retired Receiver, or as he chooses to be called, The Giver. Jonas is transmitted memories every day; at first, happy memories of tobogganing, feeling the sun and listening to music. Later he’s given memories of war, pain and the abuse of power, and that’s when Jonas feels like world closing in around him. How is he to handle all of these new emotions?
The government feels that the way they live is perfect: there is no war, no pain, no colour, no music and no fear. The government always wants one person to hold onto these memories so that they can reference them when making important societal decisions. It’s now up to Jonas to bear the pain so no one else has to; he’s was chosen. Only, Jonas soon realizes that he wants to lead a different life than the so-called Utopic one the government has laid out for its people- a life that his society has worked hard to avoid its members from having. Jonas wants to live a life of joy and pain; he sees the beauty in it. Now all he needs to do is get out.
The Giver is a book that anyone, ages 10 to 100 can enjoy and take something away from. Jonas is a surprisingly relatable, heroic character and the amount of growth he portrays in a short period of time is admirable. The Giver makes me fear for the future and like all other Dystopian tales, causes me to nod my head and think ‘I could see how this could happen.’