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The Giver, Utopia Versus Dystopia

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The Giver, Utopia Versus Dystopia

        “Lowry also shows that memory, when not brought entirely under state control, is a source of considerable individual and emancipating power” (Hanson).

        Is there such thing as a perfect society? Can any government and its population be completely flawless? In Lois Lowry's, The Giver, a seemingly perfect community unravels at its hinges due to its totalitarian rule being challenged. The people living within this community see no difference. In the most literal way possible. The elders, which are equivalent to leaders, completely take away every freedom from their people in the most clever and unseen way. While all of these events are happening, the theme of distinction between a utopia and dystopia is made extremely clear within this almost science fiction work. Because of the choice to give a young boy a very important role within the community, this “utopia” quickly crumbles into the dystopia that is always was.

        In order to gain a better understanding of the key differences of a utopia and a      dystopia, lets first define and recognize the key factors of a utopia. A utopia is a seemingly perfect world. There is no real problems like war, poverty, famine, disease, discrimination, and the list could just go on and on. The key to this community within the novel seeming like a utopia is the complete and almost horrifying loss of free will. Now the saying “loss of free will” may seem a little opposite of the definition of a utopia, but this technique is executed in a genius way. Within this community, everybody is essentially the same, “Science has erased difference, which would suggest the erasure of numerous conflicts” (Stewart). This is named to be sameness. It is stated within “The Utopian Function of Memory in Lois Lowry's ‘The Giver’” by Carter Hanson that, “Like the Utopians, Lowry’s citizens enjoy absolute stability, safety and freedom from any material want”. The people within the community are very unaware of anything going on outside of its communities and are only told what their elders want them to know. Everything they do is completely controlled by the higher ups.  Because of this ignorance that they have been forced into for their entire lives, the people are seemingly very happy and peaceful but lack basic freedoms that most people would give their lives for.

        Now that the distinction of a utopia has been made lets do the same thing for a dystopia. A dystopia is a imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. “Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver (1993) inhabits the discursive space of dystopia, and like most dystopias, The Giver begins in an imagined world intended to be worse than the reader’s own, although it is initially somewhat inviting” (Hanson). The main idea that makes this community a dystopia instead of a utopia is complete equality and no humanity. Some examples that help support this dystopian concept the book is that nobody has a recognized birthday. The community holds a ceremony for every child or adult of that age to celebrate. The most notable one being the ceremony of twelve. Within this ceremony, all of the twelve year olds in the community are assigned their occupations (“assignments” as stated in the novel) that they will work for their entire lives. Also every household is exactly the same. Families are to consist of two parents, one mom and one dad, and two children, one daughter and one son. Once these children reach the age of puberty, they are forced to take daily pills to help suppress their newfound emotions and thoughts (which are called “The Stirrings”), in the article by Rocio Davis it is that “…societies represented have established forms of regulation and elimination of emotions…”. When the makers made this community, they did away with sunshine. This is stated to have helped to get rid of color for the citizens. As climate control may seem a little outrageous, a choice of taking away knowledge was made. Nobody within the community knows any history of the past world that once lived. This is to not only do away with the possibility of emotional pain within the people, but also to ensure the security of the government. Knowledge is power. If one was to take away knowledge from another, then that person would have nothing.

        The first mistake that was made by the elders happened at the annual ceremony of twelve. Just like every ceremony of twelve, all of those participating were given their assignments. The protagonist of the novel, Jonas, was assigned “Receiver of Memory”. This meant that he would be the “only” person within the community to know the truth. He would be able to see color, feel real emotion, and learn all of the history of the past, with the help of the former receiver of memory, who is now the giver. Because Jonas gained so much knowledge and uncovered the truth behind everything, his seemingly perfect utopia, unraveled into a dystopia right in front of his eyes. After obtaining all of this information and going through a sad experience when a newborn baby was deemed as unable to thrive due to his sleepless nights, Jonas has a revelation. Jonas’ fathers works as a nurturer and is ordered to release the new born baby, Gabriel, which is later found out to be a saying for distributing lethal injections. Jonas learns of a place called elsewhere. A place beyond the community. Stated in “Dystopian Community in Lois Lowry's Novel The Giver” by the Monica Toma, “His heart starts to ache with a desire for a life Elsewhere”. Jonas ends up escaping the community with Gabriel. Although Jonas has nothing but good intentions when leaving the community with Gabriel he find himself in a bind. It is stated that, “Many days later, after eluding the search planes hunting for them, they end up, near death, on a snow-covered hill” (Hanson). Jonas fleeing the community and its perfect uniformity, is the first sign of the dystopia being challenged. This main statement and summary has been made because not only was this challenging the elders but it was also allowing the people to have questions, and want to know more. Which is not wanted in a dystopia.

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