This past week, I grew exceedingly nostalgic and reread The Giver. The only books I've ever re-read are this one, The Magic Treehouse books when I was in elementary school, and A Christmas Carol, which I read every Christmas. I hadn't read The Giver since 7th grade, in which I was among the last class at my school who was taught the ins and outs of the novel. Some teachers wouldn't even allow me to have the book out while in class. It's been a controversial topic for many years, and I wanted to go back and rediscover the story, from a matured perspective. What did I learn? Almost nothing. I was pleasantly surprised that aside from minor details about the novel's world, there were very few themes and meanings that slipped my memory.
The book is about a boy named Jonas who lives in a utopian society where every choice is made for him. When he is assigned to a career, he is ordered to become the community's next "Receiver of Memories", whose job is to hold all the memories of the past world so the people don't have to, as memories are seen as stressful and dangerous. As he receives more and more memories from the past Receiver, now known as The Giver, Jonas discovers how cruel his utopian world actually is, as he and The Giver try to beat the system they are bound to.
The themes and lessons of the novel are very important for children to know from a young age, even if they never read it in school. I can understand why this could be banned from elementary, or even middle schools, as there are some extremes in the book that may not be deemed appropriate for a school setting. Why has it been banned? Some believe it's because the novel is discouraging societal control, and has thus been banned by government funded schools. Do I personally believe that? Not necessarily. I don't think the novel goes to the extent of teaching youth at a young age to defy government, rather, be wary of the extent of executive control. The requests for banning the book in schools over the years, were mostly placed by parents who believed the book was too extreme. The most important lessons the book has to offer, are more along the lines of teaching people to make decisions for themselves, and to be their own person, rather than allow others to define who they are. It also shows how important it is for us to interact, and be expressive. The book conveys all these messages through imagery, and shocking revelations in the story, which is how it has gained so much controversy, but also stuck with readers for over two decades.
The reason I've come to realize why this book has been deemed a classic, is from just how vague it is. The themes I've mentioned are only to name a few, and the amount of themes that any individual can interpret from the novel, is infinite. The book also isn't very descriptive either; Lois Lowery is trying to present a mysterious world to the reader, creating a unique experience for everyone who reads it. This lack of descriptiveness is part of what makes the novel so short of a read, and also what makes the world so frightening. The ending isn't definitive either, so discussion for its conclusion is infinite. I believe this is the reason why the film adaptation which released in 2014, didn't do very well. The book has such a cult following, and allows for so much breathing room for the imagination, no one wanted their interpretation of the film to be ruined by a Hollywood blockbuster. It only goes to show the strength books can give readers to keep the story the way it is, and preserve its message.
So, my revisiting of the book wasn't as much a means of looking back with mature eyes, but a realization of the book's importance, and what it has fundamentally done to earn that importance. It's so explicit in message, yet so vague in and of itself, it has gained a massive following of people who wish to preserve its content, so future generations will still be able to discover and lean it. The Giver isn't as much a popular novel, but a powerful vessel for preaching thoughts and ideas. As long as we continue to pass these ideas on, the legacy of the book shall never fade. Currently, it isn't bound to happen any time soon.
-David Brashier; Huntsville, Alabama; February 2016