The Giver By Lois Lowry Essay Introduction

The Giver Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography and a Free Quiz on The Giver by Lois Lowry.

When The Giver was first published in 1993, Lois Lowry was already a previous Newbery Medal winner (for her 1989 World War II novel, Number the Stars). She was also widely admired and greatly appreciated by an avid following of young readers for her comic series of Anastasia books. The Giver was immediately recognized as a very special novel. It too won the Newbery Medal. And a large number of commentators concluded that it was the best book Lowry had written.

Lowry's other work is mostly grounded in the cut and thrust of family life. The narrative of The Giver, because of the futuristic and allegorical themes in the novel, is a considerably more Spartan affair. Readers are made immediately aware that they are in the realm of fabulous rather than realistic fiction, and that Jonas is the principle player in a moral fable with political and social overtones.

Lowry spent a good part of her childhood living near the Amish people of Pennsylvania. Later she moved to Tokyo and lived in an American compound within the City. Both experiences seem to have made her suspicious of attempts by communities to protect a rigid self-identity. She is careful in The Giver to make the community she is describing extremely plausible. From many points of view, it represents a well-managed social order. But as the reader discovers, along with Jonas, more and more about the principles on which that social order is based-infanticide, enforced euthanasia-it becomes impossible to read the novel as anything other than a savage critique of such systems.

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Imagine if you were told that, as of age twelve, you had to get a job... and then keep it for the rest of your life. Terrifying? Try this: imagine if you were always been watched over by an obscure governing force. Yikes? It gets worse: imagine if you lived in a world that was literally black and white, Pleasantville-style.

All of this is horrific, but The Giver is the gift that keeps on giving (you nightmares): imagine a society where there are no emotions. No love, no hatred, to lust, no envy, no annoyance.

Excuse us while we spend the next day under our comforter, quaking in fear.

Lois Lowry published The Giver in 1993. At the time, she had already won a Newbery Medal for her earlier novel, Number the Stars, in 1990. But, because two is always better than one, she won a second Newbery for The Giver.

The Giver tells the story of a young boy named Jonas living in a highly controlled community some time in the future. The novel fits into a larger genre of cautionary tales called "dystopian literature." A utopia is a society in which everything is perfect, so a dystopia is the opposite: everything has gone wrong. The novel explores Jonas's encounter with memories of "the past," a time much like ours, in which people still had the freedom of choice.

And, because anything intended for young adults that mentions sex or government is often labeled "controversial," it was banned. A lot.

That's hilarious, right? A novel about a society that bans seasons, free will, music, colors, emotions and books... was banned.

But despite the initial controversy—or maybe, hey: because of it—The Giver is one of the most popular YA books around. And it's not just for young adults, either—The Giver is studied even in college-level Philosophy and Political Science classes. So whether you're a lover of YA or a scholar of Kant, a middle-school student or a wise old grandma, you should read The Giver.

If only because you can.

Life hurts. A lot.

We know that statement's a downer, but it's also undeniably true. From the first horrors of childhood (bruised knees, mandatory broccoli, watching Bambi's mother die) to the indignities of adolescence (getting a nosebleed in front of the whole class, forgetting yoir homework, moving to a new school and having to eat lunch by yourself) the world seems to reinforce the Princess Bride quote "Life is pain."

And sometimes you might fantasize about a world without pain. Where you don't have make the hard choices. Or be lonely. Or feel unsure. Or worry about... anything.

But before you start wishing too hard for a Shangri-La of perpetual summer and ease, pick up The Giver.  Read it.

Because The Giver shows us what that kind of world would look like and—spoiler—it ain't pretty. In fact, it's hideous.

When you don't have to worry about anything, states The Giver, that means you don't have to worry about failing... but you also never experience the joy of success and pride. If you're never unsure, you never wait queasily for your crush to text you... but you also never get the elation that comes when that text is "What are you doing? I miss you!" Sure, when you're never lonely you never feel timid and unlovable... but you also never get to experience the warm fuzzies you get when your friend says "You look down. Let's get ice cream and watch all the Adventure Time."

And sure, when you never have to make a hard choice, that means you'll never make the wrong choice. But you'll never make the right choice either. (And when we say "right choice" we mean "adopting a tiny kitten named Baby Beluga even though we were broke.")

Basically The Giver states that, without clouds, there would be no silver linings. Oh, and don't worry about getting bored—Lois Lowry inserts that oh-so-life-affirming message into a page-turner filled with dystopian horror, doctors that kill babies, young love, and a daring escape plot.

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