Lois Lowry’s The Giver shows what happens when people try to make a “utopian” society. In the world of The Giver, there is no pain or suffering of any kind, all decisions are made by a council, and people have no control over their lives. The whole world is run on a strict routine, and problems such as world hunger and poverty no longer exist. Everything from jobs, marriages, and children is decided on by a council of wise, elder men. There are no memories of the past, so all emotions and color are gone from the world, but there is one man, called the Giver, who keeps all the memories of the past. Jonas, a young boy, gets the job of receiving all these memories of the past. Jonas is overwhelmed at first by the colors, emotions, and memories from the past; he is given memories of good and bad events from human history. Jonas and the Giver are the only people in this new “utopian” society that know the feelings of happiness and pain. Everything seems perfect, but people had to give up everything to get their utopia. The world of The Giver shows how harsh a perfect society is on its citizens and gives its readers insight into their own societies.
Problems don’t seem to exist in this utopian society, but problems do not just disappear on their own. People are dealing with the problems in a despicable way. In Jonas’ world, children are not the biological children of their parents; rather, children are made by a birth mother, whose only job is to have children. This is a way to keep the population steady, and avoid the widespread hunger that comes with overpopulation. When twins are born, each baby is weighed and the lighter one is “released”. Releasing people is how they deal with old people, criminals, and everyone else that is deemed unnecessary. The released people are given a shot that kills them. Getting rid of all the useless people in a world, in theory, would create the perfect society where everyone is young and fit to work. However, the world of The Giver is more similar to a dystopia, because a world where people cannot decide when, where, and how they live or die is not a perfect world. Everything is planned out and mistakes are not allowed to happen. Terrible things have to be done to make the fault free world in the novel. To make sure nothing goes wrong, people are assigned their jobs, spouses, and children. No one gets to choose their jobs, because that could lead to too many doctors or too few of something else. At the age of twelve, everyone is given their job assignments which they will fulfill until they are released. Marriages are assigned and children are assigned to couples. Nothing is left unmanaged, because that would lead to problems, and problems cannot exist. Everyone has a job to do and they do it without complaint. This world should be perfect, but living in a place where absolutely everything is controlled, documented, and monitored for efficiency is not a utopia. People need to make choices and discover things on their own. Having a society where people don’t question or try to learn leads to needy, stupid people. The world where Jonas lives can be compared to the lives of modern day Americans. Jonas’ world strives for a problem free society where everyone does what they are told, until they are too old to work anymore.
In America, people strive for efficiency and speed. Everything is about instant gratification and being done quickly, from fast food to fast cars, to fast shopping. Hard work is the basis of success in the American Dream. People believe that if they work hard for most of their lives, then they will be able to achieve all their dreams. Americans strive for the perfect life where they own a nice house, a nice car, and have the perfect nuclear family. This is very similar to the society in The Giver, where people all have a house, family, and a stable job. In the Giver, people let the ruling council decide their lives and control everything that they do. In America, people are increasingly giving the government control of their lives, because they believe that the government is protecting and helping them. Even though people know that the government spies and attacks its own citizens, they still give power to the government. So, modern day America is not that far away from the world of The Giver.
The world in The Giver seems like a utopian society, but people have to do terrible things to become a perfect society. Problems such as poverty and hunger do not exist because the people are not allowed to have children. Children come from a group of birth mothers and are given away to assigned families. So, birth is controlled and the elderly are killed to keep society stable. Everything is decided by the council, and people cannot make choices about their lives. Jobs, spouses, and families are all decided and no one is allowed to leave their assignments. Jonas’utopia starts to look like a dystopia. The world may be stable, but a place with a totalitarian government and a population that cannot think does not seem like a nice place to live. America is heading down the same path as the society in The Giver. Everything is about efficiency and being problem free, and people put all their trust in a government that doesn’t care about them at all. Lois Lowry’s book warns its readers that having a “perfect” isn’t as perfect as it really seems. It takes a lot of work to make something look effortless.