The Giver is yet another children’s book set in a dystopian future. Lois Lowry’s novel is aimed at a younger age group than recent offerings like The Hunger Games and Twilight. Lowry’s protagonist Jonas is 11, in fact he is an Eleven, a child on the verge of being 12, and therefore about to step into training for what will be his role as an adult.
Lowry’s imagined future contains strong echoes of both current North Korean society and government and the family planning policy introduced in China in the late 1970’s. In this drab and colourless world everything is ordered and regulated, from childbirth through a lifetime of work and thence to retirement, the state, in the guise of the supposedly friendly and caring elders of The Community control every aspect of life. Sexual desire is repressed through drugs, there is no literature, no film, no art at all in this work and purpose focussed society.
On his twelfth birthday, Jonas is chosen to become the new Receiver of Memory for The Community, a prestigious and mystery shrouded occupation. The incumbent Receiver, an elderly man, now becomes The Giver of the book’s title as he passes on memories of the time before The Community to Jonas. Jonas quickly comes to understand that the time before was a time of things that society has eradicated, of people being both free-willed and independent, of war and pain and chaos, of loss and emotional suffering. The Giver however also imparts knowledge of joy and love, of colour and music, and of what it is to be self-reliant and unconstrained by an all-seeing, all-governing society. In the light of these revelations Jonas is able to re-evaluate The Community and his place within it.
Whilst being aimed at 12 year olds, Lowry’s novel contains some quite mature themes and some shocking moments, including the Lord of the Flies cum Logan’s Run revelation about the reality of what happens to the elderly and the uncontrollable in society. The film adaptation of The Giver directed by Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector, Catch a Fire, Rabbit-Proof Fence) is currently scheduled for an August 2014 release.