In the dystopian literature novel, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, the main character, Jonas, lives in a society where people have been robbed of all their choices and their emotions. Everyone looks similar and is manipulated to act similarly. Sameness is one of the most valued features of the community. Citizens are released if they violate any expectations of the community based on many rules and regulations. Jonas community is governed by a body of people called Elders. Elders enforce the rules and determine who lives or dies. The setting of the novel creates a depressing mood for the reader as they discover the ways in which Jonas suffers from his heightened feelings and emotions that isolate him from the entire community. As a result, the citizens of the community are significantly affected by certain aspects of setting in the story including a series of laws and beliefs.
One critical aspect of Jonas community is that the citizens cannot obtain books in their dwelling except for the directory, a dictionary, and a book of rules. Jonas first realizes any existence of other books when he arrives for his first day of training in the Recieverr’s room. He notices this almost immediately because it appeared to be the most conspicuous difference in comparison to his dwelling. At this point of the story, Jonas is already beginning to discover the secrets of the community that is hidden from the public. The narrator describes Jonas thoughts the moment he is introduced to the Receivers room, The books in his dwelling were the only books Jonas had ever seen. He had never known that other books existed He couldnt imagine what the thousands of pages contained (74). By concealing all other books, knowledge and memories are hidden from everyone else because they are often disturbing, uncomfortable truths that everyone would rather forget. Books allow new ideas which often affect changes. The society in which Jonas lives in is one that strives for sameness in hope of eliminating conflicts. Prohibiting the possession of other books limits their ability to think of new ideas and to be creative. Therefore, the limitation to access books causes a deficiency of love, war, pain, fear, and pleasure which are essential to a meaningful life. The absence of fictional and nonfictional books in their community restrain the citizens from realizing that they live in a world that is far from perfect and should instead, be accessible by any members within the community.
In Jonas community, another aspect of setting that affects the citizens are their practice of Sameness and their goal to completely master it. The community in which Jonas lives in gave up many essentials to life in order to master Sameness. The community began Sameness so that its citizens would be free from pain, safe from all possible harm, have perfect climate control, and an orderly existence to accomplish a perfect community. In reality, Jonas realizes he lives in a place that is the complete opposite of perfect.
When Jonas receives more and more memories of times without Sameness, he gets angry and exclaims, ?If everythingr’s the same, then there arent any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! (97). Jonas is starting to understand that Sameness, which is all he has ever known, is depriving him and everyone else of choices. Consequently, this choice of Sameness from the community limits the citizens ability to acquire personal preferences. He realizes that colors were taken away from the community in an effort to live with Sameness because it represents free choice. Inside the community, many things are regulated to such an extent that one cannot fathom making a choice of their own. Choices can cause pain, but also great happiness. Without it, life is dull, so it should be available to the citizens regardless.
Another significant aspect of the community is that when the citizens reach a certain age, they are required to take pills for stirrings. When a young citizen reaches adolescence, they begin to have stirrings which are dreams that give them sensations of pleasure and other strong emotions that they are not able to comprehend. As soon as they take the pills daily, the strong emotions fade away and they return to their world of no feeling and excitement. Jonas, however, enjoys the stirrings and the strong sensations that come with it. One night he had slept with Gabriel, deep in thought, ?There could be love, Jonas whispered. The next morning, for the first time, Jonas did not take his pill. Something within him, something that had grown there through the memories, told him to throw the pill away (129). The fact that every member in the community that is an adult or an adolescent takes pills to suppress their feelings of sexual attraction or pleasure affects the way they feel towards their peers.
This rule of taking pills eliminates all true emotion because the community views emotion as an enemy. Oner’s emotion can compel them to take action and influence the decisions they make about their life. The outcome is that the citizens are unable to know themselves, to be real, and to connect deeply with other people. The Elders believe doing this will control the population and benefit their genetic engineering. This, however, leaves the citizens brainwashed, without the desire for intimacy. Just like in todayr’s society, the citizens of Jonas community should be able to control their thoughts and feelings in order to live an enjoyable life worth living.
The important lesson the reader learns through the text is that a truly successful and happy community requires the acceptance of differences. This theme is reflected in the novel because Jonas learns that his community does not embrace individuality and instead only accepts people who simply fit in with the rest of the community. The people of his community are neither satisfied or unsatisfied at their community for it is all they know of and are unable to yearn for a better life due to their lack of knowledge. Jonas grows lonely and feels separated from his friends and family who lack understanding and perception. This lesson is an important truth that has a significant impact on todayr’s society. Because of a personr’s potential to respect differences, they welcome happiness into their lives and find value in the individuals they meet.
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