Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Giver

The Giver takes place in a pseudo-Utopian society. Everybody obeys strict rules and lives together in harmony. Apologies are given for even the slightest infraction. Children are free to explore different fields and volunteer in different areas. This will be used as input to their future career. However, when they come of age, their career will be picked for them. Reproduction is also carefully regulated, with everybody on an 'urge' reducing pill and special "birth mothers" producing all the children of society. When somebody is no longer needed they are 'released' out of the community.

In order to hold this society together, a "keeper of memories" holds onto all the "strong" memories so people don't have to. Only one keeper (and possibly a trainee) can exist at time. The keeper is the one that has more extensive knowledge of how society functions and provides guidance for difficult decision making. However, the keeper is not a true leader of society. If the keeper leaves, the society may have to handle the difficult memories themselves.

The Giver centers around a new keeper and his challenges. He discovers that there are some dark parts hidden under the fascade of the community and that he will run away from it.

Plotwise, there is not a whole lot going on. However, there are plenty of big questions. How much should a society be shielded? Does it really matter that society does not have all the many memories (both good and bad)? By keeping the "big" memories away, does that merely elevate the small memories to their state? Are the people truly free? They may be lacking in many memories, but it is impossible for us to know everything. Does it matter that they know how the memories are curated? (Would it be better to have things organically curated by the media and other groups?) What are the consequences of removing the "bad apples" from the society? Will this prevent innovation? Will it lead to the eventual destruction? (Or is it the one thing that keeps the society from being destroyed.) What is freedom and who is free?

The questions could go on and on. You can see why this would be a great book to teach in school. It has a few opinions, but keeps enough ambiguity to allow just about any interpretation.

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