Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

The Giver ()

Newbery Award Winners (1994)

From what I understand, this is one of the books that parents challenge most frequently in their children's schools.  It also seems likely that most of the parents who are demanding that schools not assign the book are probably conservatives, probably religious conservatives for the most part.  If this is truly the case, I think they are making a very great mistake.

Now don't get me wrong, as a general rule I am very much in favor of parents playing a role in censoring the literature that the monopolistic state-run schools expose their children to.  There are a great many books that it is appropriate for them to ban, whether for sexual themes, language, or just general cultural reasons.  Even an acknowledged classic like Huck Finn might be better read and discussed in the home today, if black students and parents take offense at the frequent use of the "n word".  Recall that this is what is at issue here.  No one is saying that kids should not be allowed to read these books, with their parents permission.  The discussion is over whether it is appropriate for public schools and public school teachers to have free license to expose kids to ideas to which their parents object, or which parents, often justifiably, do not believe the teachers are competent to handle with the delicacy and moral focus that such works require.

As their voting patterns and the positions taken by their union, the National Education Association, serve to demonstrate, teachers tend to have political opinions that are well to the Left of the American mainstream.  This, combined with the current banishment of religion from public schools, is ample reason for parents, especially conservative and religious parents, to try to keep teachers from discussing core ideological issues with the children entrusted to them.

However, conservatives should read this book and understand that, though it does touch upon sensitive issues--like infanticide, euthanasia, and suicide--it is an extraordinarily life affirming book, and more than that, it is a profoundly conservative book. The story is very much in the dystopian tradition of George Orwell.  Lowry envisions a world where disease and hunger and pain and violence and war and illness and poverty have all been done away with.  It is a world where complete egalitarianism has been achieved.  Every couple is permanent and each has two children.  Everyone thinks the same thoughts.   Everyone is the same.

At the center of the novel is Jonas, a twelve year old boy who, along with the rest of the "Twelves", is about to be given his life assignment.   His friends are given such standard assignments as Caretaker of the Old, Fish Hatchery Attendant, and Assistant Director of Recreation, but Jonas is singled out for an unusual assignment, for the first time in years the Community has decided to assign a Twelve to become the new Receiver of Memory.  He is sent to an old man called The Giver, who has been the Community's Receiver of Memory for decades, to be trained.

This training consists of The Giver transferring memories to young Jonah, and as the transfers begin, Jonah comprehends just how vital a role the Receiver of Memories plays.  Though Jonah gets to "experience" unheard of things like snow, he also faces pain, both physical and mental,  for the first time.  The Giver explains that Jonah has been selected to become the repository for all of the memories of what life was like before the Community came into being and to advise the Elders and the people about what they should do when they have to make choices.  It is the Receiver who steers people away from choices that might lead to tension and conflict, prevents them from disrupting the society in any way whatsoever.  As Jonah realizes :

    We don't dare to let people make choices of their own. ...  We really have to protect people from
    wrong choices.

And so, over the next year The Giver transfers more and more memories to Jonah, some joyful, some painful, some terrifying, but all new and beyond the comprehension of the rest of the Community.

But a curious thing gradually happens to Jonah as he develops the ability to perceive colors and to feel real emotions, he begins to question whether the placid, utterly secure, sameness of the society is worth the sacrifice that has been made.   He wonders whether the colorless, feelingless, joyless, painless, world they have created is really better than the alternative, however frightening it may be.  And surprisingly, he discovers that The Giver shares some of his doubts.  As The Giver tells him : They know nothing.  These two, who share memories of the world before, realize that their people have exchanged knowledge and freedom for a bland, ignorant security.

Eventually, The Giver reveals to Jonah just how the society manages to keep its numbers so perfectly balanced, where the old go when they seek "Release", where little children who have trouble fitting in to the society are really taken when they are "Released".  It finally dawns on Jonah that the third child his family unit has taken  in, who is having trouble adjusting himself, is being taken to Release, and that his father will  perform the Release himself, willingly.  So Jonah and The Giver decide to act, to seek to return the memories that they hold to the people around them, no matter the cost.

This is strong stuff, particularly for kids.  Parents are right to be concerned about a book that relies so heavily on the notion that a society can determine which lives will continue and which must end.  These are issues that parents need to discuss with their children, issues that lie at the very heart of a moral education.  But let's not miss the point here : the book is on our side.

The Community is nothing more than the realization of the Left's politically-correct, egalitarian dreams.  It is the kind of dehumanized totalitarian world where all other imperatives and values have been sacrificed to the ideal of a sterile, painless, sameness.  It is entirely fitting that Jonah's first vision of a something else lurking beyond the gray world that he perceives comes when he is looking at an apple, for the community leads the kind of bovine existence that Man would have had if we had never eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and learned, however painfully, of good and evil.  And in the closing sections of the book, what Jonah and The Giver decide is that in order to be fully human, people must share this knowledge, must be forced to make choices for themselves, must revel in their differences not fear them, must feel pain in order that they may feel joy, must comprehend the horror of killing the weak and the different simply to benefit the many.  In the most profound sense, they choose life for the community, the tumultuous, challenging, maddening, often incomprehensible, too often violent, life that is Man's lot until we can learn to be truly good.  For the community is not good; it is evil.  It is, in the truest sense, anti-human.

This is a book that conservative parents should be giving to their own kids and should be reading themselves.  I can think of few better ways to approach the many issues it raises.  And if schools are assigning it to everyone's kids, who knows, maybe some of those poor benighted children of liberal parents will actually learn some important lessons from it.  Let's save righteous indignation and our energy for ritual burnings of the truly reprehensible stuff like Daddy's Roommate.  After all, the reason we advocate censoring some books is because we believe that ideas have consequences; let's not ban books that advocate our own ideas, particularly such fundamental ideas as freedom, individualism,  and the value of every human life.


Grade: (A+)


Lois Lowry Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Lois Lowry
    -ESSAY: Dear Reader: A letter from the author of ‘The Giver’ and ‘Number the Stars.' (LOIS LOWRY, MAY 15, 2020, The Bulwark)
    -PROFILE: What Lois Lowry Remembers: Lowry, who has lost a sister and a son, has spent decades writing about the pains of memory. Literature, she says, is “a way that we rehearse life.” (Katy Waldman, 12/26/21, The New Yorker)

Book-related and General Links:
    -About Lois Lowry (American Library Association)
    -Authors Online : Lois Lowry (Scholastic)
    -Featured Author: Lois Lowry (Children's Literature Newsletter)
    -The Internet Public Library : Lois Lowry
    -Lois Lowry (Eileen Noonan)
    -LEARNING ABOUT LOIS LOWRY : Compiled by: Toni DiNuzzo, Joan Moran, Heidi Pedersen, and Chris Yurgelonis with Kay E. Vandergrift in Young Adult Literature
    -LOWRY, LOIS : March 20, 1937- : Author (Educational Paperback Association)
    -BANNEDBOOKS: "Lois Lowry"
    -ARTICLE :  The Giver : Suicide book challenged in schools (AP, 07/20/2001)
    -ESSAY : Antichrist Teachings Infiltrate Parochial and Public Grammar Schools  : The Giver (Fr. David C. Trosch)
    -ARCHIVES : "lois lowry" (Find Articles)
    -LINKS : The Giver (Young Adult Books  with  Kimberly Pauley  Your Guide,
    -LINKS : Lois Lowry ( ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication, Indiana University)
    -TEACHERS GUIDE : The Giver (Random House)
    -TEACHERS GUIDE : CyberGuide to The Giver (Virginia Frank)
    -Novel Guide to The Giver (McDougal Littell)
    -REVIEW : of The Giver (Carol Otis Hurst, Teaching K-8 Magazine)
    -REVIEW : of Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (Elizabeth Spires, NY Times Book Review)
    -AWARD : John Newberry Medal : The Giver (1994) (American Library Association)

    -Banned Books Week (ALA)
    -The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999 (ALA)
    -ARTICLE : Banned Books Week : Book challenges drop, but librarians, writers remain wary (Thurston Hatcher, September 26, 2000,
    -Censorship (National Council of Teachers of English)
    -ESSAY : Censorship in the cyber age (Reading Today, Feb, 2001)
    -ESSAY : Backward, Christian soldiers : The Christian right may be hurting at the top, but at the grass roots, it's still a force to be reckoned with (Harry Jaffe, Salon)


hey! I am lebanese.. I read ur book and its really gr8..even though at 1st i ddnt understand anything.Its one of the gr8est books i've ever read!:D.REALLY!! :):)(K)(L)(K) bye bye

- Nour Khashab

- Jan-03-2007, 12:40


I really did not understand the ending whos waiting for him please answer the this cause i'm kinda slow

- Lizette

- Nov-01-2006, 20:19


The Giver isnt exciting but its really interesting and i looooved it! i would read it again anytime

- =)

- Nov-01-2006, 12:49


I disagree with tyler tyler get real if the giver was a movie nobody would watch it it would be to boring but the book is fantastic the best one I have ever read I agree with scott a little though because in a way it is based on religon.

The Giver Rocks You Should Read It

- Alec

- Mar-04-2006, 17:34


I loved this book and I have been telling everyone i know to read it. this truley is the future and because I have now see the future with the very large absentce of God it has made me a stronger Christian and i am trying to get all people around me to be christians because i do not want our world to be like that, but at the begining of the book it made me feel that i wanted our world to be utopian like but until you know what is working behind all that and making the city run like that it makes you sick! and I just pray our world will not turn out like that so I recomend you to tell who ever you know to read this book because everyone needs to try to prevent it. and the book GATHERING BLUE the next book after you read the Giver is absolutly just as great!

- meredith

- Dec-16-2005, 10:43


i love your books!

- carl

- Sep-12-2005, 18:35


the guys name was Jonas not jonah..doest seem like you no the book..hmmm

- jimmy Mc Fee

- Aug-20-2005, 02:15


Before reading this book, I thought it was going to be boring. However, unlike most books, it is great from the beginning to the end. I would recommend this book to anyone. This book teaches the real meaning of life, that you should enjoy it, and take nothing for granted. It was fabulous.

- Chelsea

- Jul-17-2005, 17:25


The Giver Truely made me think of my own individuality and really treasure it. I was happy that so many life issues were explored through out the book. I think that it is important that only kids that are old enough should read this morally ruted book. Being older gives them time to form their own opinions and then after reading The Giver either reassuring these opinions or changing them.

- Sarah C.

- Jul-09-2005, 21:07


I agree completely with Samantha.

- Betty

- Apr-11-2005, 12:06


This book teachs kids how stupid samenss can really be. This books shows them the really meaning of life and how we should enjoy it!

- Samantha

- Apr-11-2005, 12:02


i think the book was a very good book and it shows kids a very creative side and life!!

- katie

- Dec-15-2004, 14:27


whoever - >^..^< is you spelled opinion wrong :)

- somebody who doesn't want to give her name.../his

- Nov-28-2004, 19:23


Really this book is pretty good. And when I read this book in high school I realized that it has a deeper meaning. I believe that what Lois Lowry is trying to get across is the importance of self voice. I know that if everything was the same for me I would go nuts! I love the right to be an individual it makes life worth living.

- Eric G.

- Nov-23-2004, 12:18


I love the book. It is now my favourite book that I have ever read! I read the Giver at least 4 times now and it never gets boring. Thank you Lois Lowry for giving me the giver!

- Stephanie

- Nov-07-2004, 14:18


Scott has his own oppinion of the book and no one should dog on him for it!

- >^..^<

- May-02-2004, 15:19


I don't really like the book, is so unreal !!!!

- Katrin

- May-01-2004, 12:56


Scott, i disagree with you! It is one of the best books I have ever read!

- Silly

- Feb-11-2004, 15:32


I disagree. It is the right-wing conservative monoculture and its rule-based Bible (or Koran, or Torah) which promotes conformity and "sameness", e.g. Thou shalt...blah, blah, blah. Liberalism by its very nature allows individuality, exploration, and appreciation of diversity (i.e. "color"). Conservatism thus breeds people like the "Reverend" Phelps and his followers who promote the torture and murder of innocent students like Matthew Shepherd. Conservatism is thus inherently evil.

- Scott

- Jan-28-2004, 15:43


An excellent review - now I want to read the book.

- Ephraim

- Jan-20-2004, 00:52


I really enjoyed reading this book but i dont think that someone who is not yet mature should read it they might pick up the wrong vibe

- Tom

- Jan-05-2004, 23:15


I have been working hard at writing an argumentative essay in defense of the Giver. Here, I find you've already eloquently said everything that I have wanted to. Well done and thank you!

- Lynz-H

- Nov-23-2003, 19:58


It is seriously one of the best books I have ever read. I had the opportunity to read it four years ago and I remember every bit of it. I've never had so much fun reading a school assigned book.

- Caleb, Puerto Rico

- Oct-20-2003, 22:29


dear whom ever it may concern

you should make a movie

- tyler

- May-07-2003, 09:21