Reproductive Regulation and the Construction of Relationships for Populace Control in The Giver and “Pop Squad”
In both Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “Pop Squad” a regulation of reproductive rights in order to encourage a better future for the society. While both of these regulations differ in terms of application, and level of restriction both are successful in furthering the beliefs and needs of the society. In The Giver, sexuality, or Stirrings, is repressed through the use of medication. Sexual desire is also repressed through the control of love and partner selection, limiting the risk of sexual activity. In “Pop Squad”, it is merely reproduction that is forbidden. Even outside of the law, the societal perception of reproduction works as an additional persuasion factor. Although reproduction is forbidden, sexual activity is permitted. Romantic relationships tend to have less focus on commitment due to the longevity of life, however, which ultimately changes how and why people in “Pop Squad” love. The regulation of reproduction alters how people love and as a result keeps their respected societies self-serving. As self-preservation, rather than selfless love prevails, it becomes easier to manipulate individuals. It is not until the protagonist of their respected stories become acquainted with love that they choose to rebel for the benefit of others. By controlling sex, reproduction, and love, rebellion is less likely to exist as following order benefits the individual more.
Sexual feelings, or Stirrings, are repressed in The Giver through the use of daily medication. This pill is mandated by those in power, aired through the Speaker to remind youth that “STIRRINGS MUST BE REPORTED IN ORDER FOR TREATMENT TO TAKE PLACE” (Lowry 47). By preventing citizens from experiencing sexual desire, they are controlled in several ways. First, and most importantly, this prevents unexpected pregnancy from occurring. This allows the counsel to control the population. This also prevents intentional non-Vessel births, ensuring citizens do not become attached to their biological children. By restricting sexual desire, the counsel is able to easily control the relationships of citizens who no longer experience a desire of longing for a particular person. By removing sexual desire, the counsel is able to create an easily manipulated society. Medication is also used in “Pop Squad” to prevent reproduction in citizens. This medication, rejoo, is the substance used by the society to achieve eternal life. It contains a birth control supplement in order to prevent a population boom from their consistent population. Aside from this functional purpose, it also helps the government in controlling their citizens. First, by having the rejoo and birth control in one, those who choose to have children will age and eventually die, phasing them out of society, causing them to be less of a problem. Additionally, as the vast majority of the population is without children, they do not have any dependants to worry about. This causes citizens to think primarily of their own well being rather than worrying of the well being of others. This ensures people will follow the rules as it is more beneficial to obey the law than to make the world different for another person. The life extending properties of rejoo paired with its birth prevention both regulate and discourage birth from occurring in the society.
Romantic relationships do not exist in The Giver. In order to remove pain, all emotions have been removed from the population. This prevents people being able to experience love for another. Additionally, the societal norm has prevented people from selecting their own life partners. Partners are not selected by individuals for their compatible personalities but merely by the same willingness to help raise a child. These situations help to prevent committed relationships being formed. These are not lovers, but business partners, working towards forming functional members of society. This strictly professional relationship. Due to the lack of personal commitment between partners, their motives remain self-serving. While they are willing to assist in raising children, their lack of emotional bonds between one another prevent selfless decisions from being made. This discourages individuals to rebel as it is more beneficial for the one to follow order. Relationships in “Pop Squad” are formed personally, though due to the longevity of life, are implied not to last forever. During an interaction between the narrator and his girlfriend she comments “‘If we weren’t going to live forever, I’d marry you’” (Bacigalupi 144). This implies that due to eternal life marriages and long-term relationships are no longer considered a norm. There is a limited need or desire for long, committed relationships due to the permanence of life. It appears to be an accepted fact that relationships will likely not last forever and are merely a short-term arrangement. This public acknowledgement of an almost certainly ending relationship enforces self-preservation within the character’s lives. It is more beneficial for a character to worry about their own needs rather than their partner’s as they will likely not be with this person forever. Because of this nature of a self-serving, non-committed society, it is unlikely that people will act in a way that benefits others while harming their own desires. Knowing that your partner will likely be replaced later in life limits the depth of love you feel towards that person. Neither Alice or the narrator directly express love for one another. While it is clear they appreciate one another, the established temporary nature of their relationship prevents either from sacrificing their own desires or morals for the other. This selfishness prevents people from rebelling to benefit their partners as it is easier, and more accepted to find another person to share your life with than to support reproduction.
Parent/ child relationships in The Giver are also a fabrication of the community. Children are born from Vessels in the community and assigned to families they have no biological attachment towards. This helps to prevent biological love and attachment from forming within a family. Just as Jonas’ parents do not love one another, they do not love their children. When the Giver presents Jonas with the emotion of love, he questions whether his parents love him. His parents not only laugh at Jonas for this question, but attempt to convince him that love is “meaningless” (Lowry 127). Much like the distance between spouses prevents selfless acts that benefit others, the same logic applies here. As parents do not possess a biological instinct to protect their children, they are less likely to act out in an attempt to do what is best for their children. For example, Jonas’ father is aware he must release Gabriel, his technical son, and would oblige when it was time. Had he loved Gabriel, the father would neglect his duties as a Nurturer in order to protect him. He does not experience love towards Gabriel or a need to protect him – he does what is best for the community as that is what he feels is right. Children are kept from their biological parents in order to prevent a love-driven rebellion. Relationships between mother and child in “Pop Squad” are shown to be significantly more passionate than those in The Giver. First, merely birthing a child presents a large amount of risk mothers are willing to put forth for the benefit of their children. These mothers are aware that what they are doing is a crime. They are willing to risk their eternal life in order to bring a new one into the world. More so, the mothers experience a primal and instinctive reaction towards the arrival of pop squads. In the instance where the narrator kills the child in front of its mother, she is devastated calling the narrator “a bastard and a killer and bastard and monkey man and a fucking pig” (Bacigalupi 149). She is a rambling of passionate emotion, unable to control her own feelings. The is a striking difference from Jonas’ father’s reaction to killing Gabriel. While this mother is horrified having to watch the death of her child, Jonas’ father is content with the idea of killing what is essentially his adopted son. Parental love is clearly exhibited within “Pop Squad” through the emotional reactions of the mothers.
Both protagonists begin to rebel once the experience or witness a forbidden form of love within their societies. When Jonas learns of love from the Giver he begins to experience it, particularly towards Gabriel, acknowledging that “[t]here could be love” (Lowry 129). Jonas develops love for Gabriel and exhibits this when he attempts to save Gabriel from release. Jonas, who once desired to only blend in with his peers, rebels against the desires of the committee in order to protect Gabriel. This shows the exact risks Jonas’ parents are not willing to make for each other or their children. While most in the world of The Giver are concerned with following rules for the sake of self-preservation, Jonas is able to identify that the needs of Gabriel are more important that preserving his role as a model citizen and does what he can in order to help save Gabriel’s life. When Jonas learns of love, he beings to rebel. It is shortly after Jonas stops taking his pill that he decides to go against the wishes of the counsel. Jonas desires to experience true emotions as he does through the memories he receives from the Giver. It is once Jonas’ sexual feelings are no longer repressed that he chooses to rebel against order and give memories and emotion to all in the town. These forbidden Stirrings provide Jonas with raw emotions that he experiences for himself and not through the Giver. By choosing to feel sexual desire, Jonas makes the first step towards rebellion. He chooses to experience all emotion rather than follow the rules put in place leading him closer to neglecting rules all together.
The narrator of “Pop Squad” also neglects his duties as an officer when presented with parental love. After tracking a young woman he finds in a toy store, the narrator meets her and her daughter, Melanie. While he intends to shoot the child, he is unable to because the mother is holding her. This is a physical example of love protecting the child. The mother’s embrace prevents the narrator from shooting the child and grants enough time for the narrator’s interest to be piqued. He witnesses many natural acts of love between Melanie and her mother: nursing, playing games, and the mother’s overwhelming desire to protect her daughter. Witnessing the mother’s innate need to protect her child inevitably leads to the narrator choosing not to kill Melanie and arrest her mother. Although his act of rebellion is small, it speaks a great deal. In contrast to his previous depicted encounters between mother and child, merely leaving the situation without tampering is a major stance against what he at one point believed was correct. His version of rebellion is small, though just as powerful as Jonas’. After experiencing what love between a mother and child looks like, the narrator of “Pop Squad” goes against societal rules and saves the life of Melanie and her mother. It is once he feels empathy for others the narrator is able to understand the struggles of those who have chosen to become mothers. This empathy is brought to him through the love he witnesses between Melanie and her mother which ultimately saves their life through the narrator’s rebellion.
In both The Giver and “Pop Squad”, love is the withheld emotion that helps to prevent a rebellion in their respective societies. In The Giver, much is done to prevent love from forming in their community. Spouses are selected through a committee and not person preference, people do not raise their biological children, and even sexual fantasies are repressed. By taking these actions the risk of love occurring is reduced and people are less likely to act selflessly against the rules of the committee to benefit another. Once Jonas is able to feel love he begins to rebel in order to save Gabriel. He thinks about the benefits of others above himself leading to a rebellion. Similarly, the narrator in “Pop Squad” is able to ignore what he once deemed “right” after viewing the unconditional love between mother and child. Although he has encounter these relationships many times in his past, it is when he takes the time to understand one that he begins to sympathize. Although he is aware it is wrong, he allows Melanie and her mother to live as his own form of rebellion. In both pieces of fiction, love is what leads to the beginning of a rebellion.
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