This week we continue our February Love theme as we move on to Storgae (familial love) expressed as the love of a Grandfather to his grandson and an older brother to younger in Lois Lowry's The Giver. I read The Giver for the first time around 5th grade and re-read it every year, it is one of my favorite books.
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community.
When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. – From the back of the book.
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.” - Page 112
Jonas has been selected as the Receiver of Memory in the social [dis]Utopia of the Community. This is a great honor, the greatest honor in a society that offers no exception for uniqueness. Jonas is the Receiver and, along with the Giver of Memory, one of only two within the Community to carry the collective unconscious of the entire peoples.
Sameness has eliminated fear, wanting, hunger and envy. Sameness is safe. Sameness has also eliminated curiosity, creativity and love. Sameness is grey.
Jonas must choose to carry the burden and keep the safety of status quo or cross the threshold and change the Community forever.
Check out this hilarious review of The Giver by Thug Notes over at WiseCrack.
The three big takeaways from The Giver.
1. Knowledge is power.
When Jonas enters The Giver's library for the first time he is in awe of how many books there are. Within the Community information is very tightly controlled and each household has only a handful of regulatory books. Jonas' strength comes from the memories passed to him but his power comes from access to information and his ability to learn beyond what information is curated for him.
2. Nothing worth having comes without pain.
Balance. Yin and Yang. How can we know Joy without Sorrow. We cannot be safe without danger. Value requires sacrifice.
3. The truth will set you free.
Jonas is set apart from his Community when he is chosen but struggles throughout the book to regain a place. Like so many of us Jonas feels a strong need to belong and fears the specter of loneliness whether real or imagined. Only when his baby brother is threatened does he see the truth for what it is: his destiny lies Elsewhere.
There could be colors... There could be love.” - Page 128
Receiving the Hero Tenets:
Be a person of Action: Memories, good or bad, must be shared between the Giver and Jonas. Piece by piece Jonas receives the collective unconscious of the Community, 'back and back and back.' With each memory and every day he lifts the Giver's burden ever slightly.
Live by a code: The Giver's ethos: Love conquers all. It's code: Loyalty, empathy and curiosity.
[Note: Within the context of all of Lowry's work the global theme is: The future belongs to the children.]
This page of dialogue between Jonas and his parents perfectly sums up the monumental choice set before him:
Champion: Jonas has been chosen as the sole champion of his Community. As the Paladin of Dreams, the receiver of memory, Jonas' burden is not just to carry the memories of the community but to decide whether they are shared.
Be fit: Read a book a week. [I'm extrapolating here.]
Find Balance: The cautionary tale of The Giver shows us that extremism never solves our problems, only hastens our collapse.
Wander: In the Community, Sameness has overtaken everything. There is no colour and therefore no curiosity; no suffering and therefore no courage; no choice and therefore no creativity.
One thing I love about The Giver is that in a short novel of only 180 pages it takes Jonas until page 165 to Cross the Threshold, the struggle is internal. Only when his baby brothers' life is in danger does Jonas commit to Adventure.
Explore The Giver further:
They actually did a very good job on the film despite critical reviews to the contrary. The biggest departure from the book is changing the age of the children from 12 to 18 and that affects certain dynamics within the story like a budding love affair between Jonas and Fiona - something I will concede to Hollywood.
If I had one criticism for the movie it would be lack of subtlety with the major lessons of the giver. Unfortunately, like many modern films, the producers assume their audience doesn't have enough depth to understand metaphor and parable without dialog. As I write this The Giver is available on Netflix but read the book first.
This feature from Fandango MOVIECLIPS is the best promo video available. The "official" trailers suffer from the common Hollywood mistake of giving away the whole story in 2 minutes.
Like the theme of The Giver? Love machine guns and katana swords? Try Equilibrium, The Giver but with machine guns ... and swords ... and, uh, Batman.
Equilibrium proves that great movie came be made without spending half a billion dollars. My guess is you can probably catch this flick on Netflix.
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