Is the Society of The Giver a Utopia?

Ever since the species of man has existed, men have looked for improved states of society. Searching for food, shelter, and safety have been major problems, even in today’s world: naturally, authors would write books about utopias that provide for the common needs of people and that ensure true social harmony. Lois Lowry’s book The Giver presents a controversial utopia. A utopia (defined by Oxford dictionary) is “an imaginary place in which the government, laws, and social conditions are perfect.” Perfect (also defined by Oxford dictionary) is “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” The society created by Lois Lowry in The Giver is a utopia due to its government, laws, and social conditions being as good as it is possible to be.

Lowry’s society as presented in The Giver has a very efficient and stable government: the society has a committee that governs by coming to a consensus, and if the committee is backed up in a tight spot, they ask the Giver to solve a troubling issue/problem. Therefore, the committee doesn’t waste time in getting the issue solved. For example, when the community petitioned to be able to receive a third child, the committee asked The Giver to solve the problem. Lois Lowry writes “A lot of citizens petitioned the Committee of Elders… the strongest memory that came was hunger”(Lowry, 140), showing how The Giver showed the committee that they cannot change such rule. The government/committee shows efficiency through their cautious decisions that show care to the community’s welfare.

The government creates laws that people are willing to follow. Laws organize jobs that people would do well at, marriage partners that will get along, and pills that eliminate desire (which can lead to some form of disaster). Desire causes people to make wrong decisions, such as stealing, killing, and other illegal acts. Crimes like those can destroy and cause the society to fall apart. Jonas states “Two children – one male, one female – to each family unit. It was written very clearly in the rules”(Lowry, 11). The laws were well-designed to prevent trouble in the community to insure its stability and safety.

One of the major factors in this society that causes it to be a utopia is that it presents great social conditions. People living in the community are provided with food, water, and shelter (the basic needs of humans). There is no need to worry about poverty. Scientists developed ways to get rid of pain when physical accidents occur. People don’t need to worry about global warming, pollution, or threats from other animals. The creators of the community also cleared out a big obstacle, prejudice and discrimination. When The Giver and Jonas were talking about the community, they were talking about Sameness. Lois Lowry writes “ Today flesh is all the same” (Lowry, 94) showing how the society got rid of prejudice and discrimination by making everyone have the same skin tone. Everyone looks the same, everyone thinks the same, and everyone learns the same thing (up until the Ceremony of 12). Due to the society getting rid of prejudice, discrimination, pain, pollution, global warming, threats from other animals, hunger, dehydration, and homelessness causes the society to be a “perfect” place.

Critics might say this society is a dystopia because it takes away free will. People are not allowed to make decisions or have their own choices. Jonas argues “I want to wake up in the morning and decide things!”(Lowry, 123). He then realizes the issues that come with choices. The Giver states how decisions can not only change a person, but the community in a bad way. Jonas realizes how that free will can destroy the community when he says “We really have to protect people from wrong choices” (Lowry, 124). While free will may benefit people at times, the greater good is achieved by having a government requiring people to follows rules to maintain the utopia status.

The Giver society qualifies for a utopia due to how the society makes everyone so happy. The utopia has a stable government that solves issues efficiently, good laws that people like to follow, and social conditions that provide for everyone in the society. It is the “perfect” place to live, and seems very desirable. The Giver’s statement “Life here is so orderly … so painless. It’s what they’ve chosen,”(Lowry, 130) shows how the people are so happy because they don’t need to worry about challenges in the real world such as global warming. The society has perfected life in every way by removing the obstacles that people would fear. Now that such fears are gone, people may live a painless life in their utopia.

A Lonely Mind With a Heavy Burden: Hope in The Giver

Hope; it holds the potential to drive a man insane, feeding on any optimism one possesses, building up and growing larger until reality tears it down. However, It can also be a marvelous state of mind, allowing one to do things they never thought possible. Without the hope that inspired a man to sail past the edge of the world, a vastly-uncharted land would not have been found, even if it was thought to be India at the time. Without the hope that pulled on the heartstrings of the settlers of this new land, the United States may not truly be the land of the free. Within a mass amount of calculations and scientific theory, it was hope that drove human beings to set foot on a celestial object that once could only be viewed from hundreds of thousands of miles away. This theme of hope flourishes through the pages of Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, illustrated through the tone and symbols that appear through the characters experiences.

Lois Lowry struck emotional tones and ideas, using descriptive situations to allow the reader to connect to the scenarios Jonas, the protagonist, found himself in. A bitter tone reveals itself as the story unfolds into a black-and-white world, quite literally. Jonas was the only one that was able to see color after becoming the Giver. “They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.” The author almost uses some sort of foreshadowing, saying that Jonas is not able to accomplish his wish of sharing his wonderful gift. This not only shows hope within Jonas himself, but also brings out hope in the reader. The tone forces the reader to place themselves where Jonas is; the only person that has the knowledge of the past, experiencing everything and carrying the memories on, from the awesome to the awful. “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared” (Lowry 154). The tone represents the pain and anguish Jonas is experiencing, and the hope that one day the world might be as it was before. He had to carry the weight of all of mankind that came before him, he alone was burdened with the emotions and knowledge from the past. After being exposed to the real world, there was no way that he could go back, and he questioned how those around him could really live without the full experiences that come with being human.

The aspiration of sharing the memories with the world is not the only source of hope, but the small baby Gabriel. Being one of many symbols to appear throughout the work, Lowry signifies the theme of hope through baby Gabriel. As the world around Jonas becomes more and more complex and intricate, his hope for Gabe to experience the full wonder of the world expands and thrives. “‘Gabe?’ The newchild stirred slightly in his sleep. Jonas looked over at him. ‘There could be love’” (Lowry 128). Not even capable of expressing the emotion of love, the society around Jonas is blind to the feelings he in experiencing. Just as Jonas was reborn when the memories of the past were shown to him, Baby Gabriel is fresh to the earth, untouched. The main motivation quickly becomes Gabe, for he is a sign of new hope in the world and the potential of change. “‘Things could change Gabe,” Jonas went on, “Things could be different. I don’t know how, but there must be some way for things to be different’” (Lowry 128). Gabe changed Jonas’s outlook on the whole entire situation. Before, there was no hope in bringing all the wonder of the former world back to civilization, but Gabe brought a new ambition. The child was new to the world, he had not been exposed to the blandness of controlled life that everyone else in the community experienced. He was an opportunity to start anew.

As Lois Lowry illustrates through symbols and tone, the theme of hope appears countlessly throughout The Giver. Although hope has its ups and downs, it can bring about great things. It has the potential to motivate oneself while all odds look down upon them. It can reveal and enlarge any small opportunities of light in a world of darkness. It allows one to take the leap, ignoring the chance of failure or consequences that come with it. Without hope, one could not truly live.

The Cost of Security

In a country where many are free to learn what they please, express themselves and feel a vast range of emotions, it is an outlandish thought to have these simple freedoms restricted or even relinquished. Lois Lowry’s The Giver follows Jonas, a boy who begins to question his perfect society devoid of any troubles when he receives memories of the past as part of his job Receiver of Memory. The community gives up the freedom of its people in favor of security, which results in ignorance of the past, and an inability to perceive the future. Relinquishing freedom makes emotion non-existent. It raises the question; is it truly worth erasing the freedom to learn, to experience the world, and to feel emotions in favor of security?

The government of Jonas’ community greatly restricts the range of knowledge that can be acquired within the education system; here, the education of young people revolves around giving up their own individuality in order to retain Sameness and to keep order within the community. Because of their Sameness-centered education, no one learns of the past and no one can think beyond the set parameters of the community. This indoctrination makes sure that everyone has a place in society, and it also makes sure that no individual is capable of disrupting the order with his/her own thoughts or concepts that conflict with Sameness. Citizens are so ignorant of any other method of thought, that even Jonas does not realize how ignorant he is until he learns of family and love in a memory of Christmas. Jonas states, “I just didn’t realize there was any other way until I received that memory” (157). He did not know that there was any other way to live their lives, and he did not even know what Christmas was or what love was prior to receiving that memory, which just goes to show how limiting their memories are. Because of this security, no one can be free inside his or her mind. How does one perceive the world on a physical level? The answer is with their senses and their thoughts. How can one perceive if both their thoughts and senses are incapacitated? It is a trick question; it is not a person who can perceive, but, rather, it is the illusion of perception.

In other cases, the community in The Giver pushes back against basic facts of life that most free societies never question. No one in Jonas’ community can see color or hear music, which seems to be harmless enough. Color is an expected amenity in a typical person’s life, but in such a controlled environment, it can be overlooked, and music can be seen as a distraction from an orderly lifestyle. However, it goes a bit further than being able to discern between the color of hair or being able to listen to progressions of chords. Color allows people to be individuals with separate qualities about their bodies (hair, skin, eyes), and music allows people to express creativity. Therefore, color and music conflict with Sameness because they express individuality and choice. No one can see color or hear music because everyone is genetically modified before they are born so that they are all the same. They are essentially destined never to be different in order to keep the security of the community. If people are born different in Jonas’ society, then they are released from the community via lethal injection. The narrator describes the euthanization of a twin baby, “He pushed the plunger very slowly, injecting the liquid into the scalp vein until the syringe was empty” (187). Twins are not allowed within the community because discerning between the two twins would cause confusion and frustration, two qualities the government despises. Release is also applied to adults who have outlived their use in Jonas’ community. In essence, if citizens do not meet the physical requirements deemed safe, then they are erased from the community.

Emotions are what allow human beings to react and to connect to the world. Throughout a day consisting of interaction with other humans or objects, the typical human undergoes changes in emotion, ranging from exhilaration all the way to dejection. His or her emotional state depends on one’s own mental and physical experience whilst doing human things. One could argue that emotions are what define humans. Jonas’ community, however, sees emotions as a catalyst for the disruption of Sameness. Every evening each family unit must discuss their emotions with one another, and even so, their emotions are rather bland. The icing on the cake is when the reader learns that when children enter adolescence, they are given medication to keep their emotions in check. When Jonas has a dream containing sexual desires, his mother tells him, “You’re ready for the pills, that’s all. That’s the treatment for Stirrings” (48). Denizens of the community are taught that emotions need to be restrained and controlled with medication rather than having emotions experienced and felt. No one can discover life through feelings; their community has taken care of that. To be fair, emotions could cause feelings of unrest and anger, which are troublesome for the government. After all, how can a government retain order if the emotions of its own people do not agree with its government’s motives? Due to this decision, however, no one is much of a human being; they are more like robots that react to protocols.

If a community has to sacrifice freedom to have some level of control and security over its citizens, the morality of it can be questioned, especially when it is with something as small as the ability to perceive color in order to make everyone the same. The community sees individuality as a threat to its security because an individual with his or her own desires is more unpredictable than someone whose life has been under the scrying eye of the government. What is the point of living a life if it is not one’s own to control? Sure, the community can give a disobedient miscreant or an elderly citizen a lethal dose of euthanasia, but that same person has already been starved of a life worth living. Removing freedom and implementing security only makes for more complications in a society. The community in The Giver is constantly regulating and surveilling its people, which takes time and human resources. If the community could trust its citizens, more time could be spent working on more productive projects and its citizens could live a full life. Maybe then the community could become free in a fashion similar to the democratic superpowers of the world.