Themes

Our comprehensive interpretation of Lois Lowrys's young adult novel The Giver (1993) addresses the twelve most important themes. First, we describe the rules that govern the community members’ private, professional, and public lives. Particular attention is paid in this section to the rules of politeness, the evening telling of feelings, and the morning dream-telling, nudity and sexuality, and reproduction and family units.

The three themes of surveillance, control and punishment, which determine the behavior of the community members, are then examined one after the other, before the term "release" is explained in more detail, as it connects to the community’s practiced of forced euthanasia. In the harmonious and painless society in which the young main character lives, there is no talk of death. Outsiders, criminals, old people, and unwanted children suddenly disappear and are transferred to "Elsewhere". Jonas is shocked when he learns the truth from the Giver about the final destination.

The community is governed by conformity. This principle is mainly related to the environment, housing, food, clothing, hairstyle, and behavior and forms a protection against wrong decisions. The role of memory plays a fundamental role in the novel, therefore the author's intention, namely the society without memories, as well as the attainment, burden, and release of memories will be discussed afterwards. The last six themes interpret different elements of the narrative: dictatorship, lies, love, sexuality, and finally individuality.

Our detailed interpretation stays close to the text and is written in easy-to-understand language. It is a useful tool for understanding the text and forms a solid basis for one's own reflections and discussions.

Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

The most important task of the Receiver of Memory is to carry the burden of memory, sparing the others in the community the p: "But then everyone would be burdened and pained. They don’t want that. And that’s the real reason The Receiver is so vital to them, and so honored. They selected me—and you—to lift that burden from themselves." (Chapter 14, 55%). 

For the Giver, this burden is sometimes difficult to bear. Often, when Jonas comes to him in the morning, he feels very bad because painful memories torment him.

The Giver has to experience all the suffering of the past and the memories of war, pain, hunger, and loss so that the rest of the population is not burdened with them. Therefore, the members of the community live without any worries because the Giver keeps all the terrible memories away from them.

The Giver gradually transfers these emotional and psychologically painful memories to Jonas, who also sometimes wants to give up his education: 

Jonas did not want to go back. He didn’t want the memories, didn’t want the honor, didn’t want the wisdom, didn’t want the pain. He wanted his childhood again, his scraped knees and ball games. He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because he had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden. (Chapter 16, 0%).

The memories transmitted by the Giver quickly affect Jonas's behavior: "And his new, heightened feelings permeated a greater realm than simply his sleep. Though he knew that his failure to take the pills accounted for some of it, he thought that the feelings came also from the memories." (Chapter 17, 11%).

Jonas can now understand the feelings of others better. For example, he recognizes that Lily did not really feel anger when she was upset with the boy from the other community (Chapter 17, 22%). 

Because of the memories, the Giver lives a lonely life. He is not allowed to share these memories with anyone. However, the memories also show him a world that is more diverse and in which there are true feelings. It is for this world that he longs.

Releasing the memories

Jonas and the Giver wish that the community would experience the memories again themselves and gain wisdom . The old Giver confirms, "But the memories tell us that it has not always been. People felt things once." (Chapter 20, 25%). Therefore, their present community can also change again. With the help of the memories, people might then be able to liberate themselves and change their society.

The Giver can remember that it was a great disaster when Rosemary was released ten years ago and her memories passed back to the community. The members were confronted with these memories themselves, which caused a great deal of unrest and uncertainty :  

 'It was chaos,' he said. 'They really suffered for a while. Finally it subsided as the memories were assimilated. But it certainly made them aware of how they need a Receiver to contain all that pain. And knowledge.'  (Chapter 13, 69%).

The memories that Jonas receives from the Giver during the first year of his training can also be lost. When he moves away from the community, these memories fade away. They are released and are experienced by all members of the community.

The Giver foresees that the members of the community will then be confronted again with countless feelings when the memories Jonas carries within him are released . Rosemary had been through only five weeks of training and knew only mental pain, such as "poverty, and hunger, and terror" (Chapter 18, 57%), while Jonas has been with him for a year and has experienced physical pain as well.

Therefore, the amount of memories that will come back to the community after Jonas' escape will be massive. When the members will experience torment and suffering, it will be especially hard for them.

The old Receiver continues to feel responsible for the community and refuses to run away with Jonas, wanting to stay in the community to help people cope with their problems .

The events that Jonas himself experiences in his real life, however, he can keep to himself. Therefore, he can also remember the sled, because he has made this event his own memory. Jonas confirms this when he says " 'I remember this place, Gabe.' And it was true. But it was not a grasping of a thin and burdensome recollection; this was different. This was something that he could keep. It was a memory of his own." (Chapter 23, 67%).

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