Dystopian Characteristics of the Giver
Lois Lowry’s The Giver introduces the reader to the perception of a perfect society based on sameness. The story revolves around young boy named Jonas living in a “perfect” world called The Community where there is no pain, war, or fear. The weather and every citizens emotions are under control. To everyone living there, the community might seem like the perfect place to “live”, but they never get to experience what it truly is to live. The creators of Jonas’s community created a society based on their idea of a utopia, when in reality it is not perfect at all. Specifically, the ideas of no freedoms, no diversity, and no pleasure are examples of dystopian characteristics.
Unlike a utopian society, the citizens have no ability to chose. They do not get to decide what life will be like for themselves, but instead they are each given an “assignment” when they reach twelve at the Ceremony of Twelve. Each citizen is expected to follow the strict set of rules and regulations, including precise speaking and shared feelings at dinner. Every person receives a bike when when they reach nine and that is the only method of transportation allowed. It is against the rules to use a bike before you reach that age. A formal apology is necessary under all circumstances.
Having strict laws and regulation eliminates a place for free will. No one in the community is given the ability to chose. Even the Giver did not chose his position. The Giver states, “‘It’s the way they live. It’s the life that was created for them. It’s the same life that you would have, if you had not been chosen as my successor'” (Giver 153). By this he explains to Jonas that the people who created the community determine how each individual lives. Jonas is one of only a couple who didn’t have to follow this predetermined path.
The makers of the community, the Giver explains, “‘made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness… We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with difference. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others'” (Giver 95). By this, he is explaining the choice made in the past to go to sameness. This forced the people of the community to give up many things. For example, nobody except for the Giver and his successor can see colors. When the makers made the choice for sameness, they did away with color and also emotion. They took away emotions by using pills that assure the people would remain under control. Along with contained emotions, the community also has a steady climate without sunshine. Lack of sun caused color to be removed as well. Nobody except for the person chosen to be Reciever of Memory can witness color.
In other societies, there would be death, illness, pain, etc., but not in Jonas’s community. The entire weight of the memories of the past are placed on one person in order for others to have no pain. Because of the lack of pain, there is not true pleasure either. Death does not exist in The Community either; Instead of dying, a member was released due to one of three causes. A person could be released by reaching a certain age, as a punishment, or because they have not developed enough to be considered acceptable. “For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure” (Lowry 2-3).
The Community is seen as a utopia but contains many dystopian characteristics. Everyone except the Giver and Jonas do not know what pain is simply because they have never had to experience it. They live in a world where their life is determined for them at a certain age and they have no way around it. They don’t get to decide whether they want feelings or not because that too was already chosen for them. Because of this, they never learn what the meaning of love or be loved.