Recovery in the Media: #29. The Giver

The Giver

Is it worth experiencing pain to have real emotions?

29. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Years ago, I somehow stumble across the short novel The Giver.  Curiosity caused me to give the book a try.  Instantly, the story sucked me into an alternate universe.  Even though I have read it numerous times, the emotions and depth in Lois Lowry’s work touches me every time.  I  decided to post about this book because of the way it addresses having real emotions, memories, and relationships in life even if they bring great pain.  Plus, this novel is cleverly written and thought-provoking.

Synopsis: Jonas seems like a normal boy for the most part.  Living in a utopian society in the future, people around the pre-teen appear happy with their lives.  Everyone goes through the same process; at each year, children accomplish different tasks and are allowed to do certain things.  At twelve, all children are assigned their jobs.  Later, the government puts couples together and grants them a baby girl and boy.  This is the way that society works, and no one questions it.  After all, no pain or disorder exists.  However, when Jonas receives the mysterious role of being the Receiver of Memory, everything in his life changes.  Suddenly, he must receive the memories – and emotions – from the old man who previously held the job.  As Jonas learns more about true emotions and possibilities in life, he must decide how to react to the dystopian society around him.

Recovery Pluses: Jonas at first loves receiving the memories.  After all, experiencing snow and love for the first time is a wonderful thing.  Eventually, the Giver must show the boy war, hate, and pain.  Although this hurts both of them, the longing for true living with both positive and negative events, emotions, and memories remains in Jonas.  Instead of fleeing from hardship like his government, the protagonist decides to take both the bad and good in life.  Refusing to dull his physical and emotional pain is one way that Jonas goes about this.  Not only does he want to escape from a life of sameness and falsehood, the boy also longs to rescue others who he cares about such as his family, crush, and a helpless baby.  Even though life can be painful, being nearly a mindless robot is worse.

This message impacted me strongly because it helped me to realize that pain does not make life worthless.  Instead, agony and heartache are a normal – even good – part of truly living.  Hiding your emotions, trying to be the same as everyone else, pretending nothing bad ever happens – all of these take away from the true joys and experiences of being human.  Jonas must learn to hold even difficult feelings and deal with them.  Each of us has to choose to do that as well.  Sure, we can hide behind a smile or numb our emotions.  However, that causes us to miss out on the true beauty of living.  There is great pain and agony in experiencing emotions, but just as much hope and happiness remains if we are open to it.  You cannot only feel good all of the time.  To really live, one must also open up to difficult emotions.  This novel deals with that message in an interesting and poignant way.

Cautions: Although usually labeled as book for youth, The Giver deals with numerous difficult and chilling themes.  Death, murder, deception, suicide, controlling governments, mercy killing, war, survival of the fittest, and many other hard topics are addressed.  These are all addressed in an honest but fairly subdued way.  Thus, some sensitive youth might not be able to deal with this book, but teenagers and adults would benefit greatly from reading this novel.

Whenever someone asks me about my favorite book, The Giver is always in my top three.  From the first page, this book enthralled me.  The ending left me hanging and longing for more.  There are three sequels of sorts called Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.  Although the others are worth reading, The Giver is by far my favorite.  If you have not picked up this novel, please give it a chance.  Then allow yourself to think deeply about the themes and messages in it.  Discover what your opinions are on government, emotions, and life.  Doing this after reading Lois Lowry’s book has helped me to find hope in living with depression and mental illness.

Additional Links:

The Giver on Lois Lowry Website

Lois Lowry‘s Website

The Giver on Good Reads

The Giver on Amazon

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