Do you have a memory you wish you could erase? Something so painful, you wish you could forget it ever happened? What if you didn’t even have a choice, if someone did this for you?
I wasn’t surprised to see that The Giver was on Amazon’s list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. It’s one of those books that changes you. It was one of my favorite books growing up, the book that led to my obsession with dystopian fiction.
Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, 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
This is one of the few books that I have read over and over throughout the years. Each time, it leaves me feeling emotionally exhausted, shattered.
Even though it is written for children, I think that I got even more out of it reading it as an adult. It’s a book that obviously makes you appreciate the hard times, a reminder that without all of the pain and the struggles we have gone through, we couldn’t appreciate true joy.
But it is also about so much more than this. It is about growing up. And growing up is hard. There are two parts in particular that really made me think about that this time around. The first is the moment Jonas becomes overwhelmed with a sense of loss, loss for his childhood, his innocence, his security, even his friends, because he can no longer relate to them on even the smallest level. The other is the moment when Jonas realizes that his father has been lying to him about what he does. Nick and I were talking a lot about this, and Nick brought up the point that his father probably was not intentionally lying to him, he most likely didn’t know what he was doing. Still, it’s a hard lesson to learn that our parents are not perfect and that moment just struck me as exceptionally painful.
I especially love the way that the book ends. It was not until college that I realized that the ending could be interpreted two different ways. I always assumed that everything turned out okay, but if you read the last few paragraphs carefully, you could interpret the ending as tragic. I won’t tell you what I think it was so that I don’t sway you.
I wanted to read The Giver again so that it would be fresh in my mind when I went to see the movie version, which I saw this past weekend. I have to say, I kind of hated the movie.
There were so many things that I appreciated about The Giver as I was re-reading it for probably the 10th time last week. I loved that there was no big battle, no rebellion, no villain – just people who don’t know any better, and a kid who quietly goes off to save them. In the movie, not only is Jonas older, but are additional elements thrown in, and I got the sense that Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) somehow knew more than her character did in the book. Between that, the big chase scenes, the crazy technology, and Jonas’ love interest, it just seemed like it was trying to be the other young adult dystopian movies that have become so popular recently.
There was line in the movie, said by Meryl Streep, that struck me: “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.” It’s the line that makes you think, that makes you understand why this utopian society was created in the first place, that makes you see even the beauty in it for just a moment. I think that having this this viewpoint added a layer of complexity to the movie, although I think that in the book, the Giver explains this pretty well and we get it.
I love this book! But I also know that there are a lot of strong, differing opinions about The Giver. What’s your take?