When people are free to choose, they choose wrong.
Lois Lowry’s The Giver is set in a futuristic community where everything is regulated. There is no pain, there is no sadness, and nobody breaks the rules. All babies are born at the same time, and they move up to the next age every December. At age Twelve, all children are given an Assignment in the community. It may be garbage collector, it may be doctor; it may be recreation director, it may be to work in the House of the Old. Jonas, the main character, is given a very different and honorable assignment that will become the greatest trial of his life. He and the Giver will work together to… well I can’t tell you, now can I?
I’ve read this book a few times before, and it’s a remarkably quick read. It took me 2 days of casual reading to finish it. I read it again because I’m teaching English through a reading class, and the book they need to read is none other than The Giver. As I read, I found deeper and deeper themes. Every time I read this book, it moves up another rung on the ladder of maturity, and that’s what makes Lois Lowry such a powerful author.
The most impactful part of this read however was watching my students become connected to a book. It’s really something to hear a Honduran say to you, “Teacher, is it okay [in English] to say: ‘I am in love with this book’?” I told her to tone it down and say “I love this book,” but hearing her talk about the community, the characters, their trials and challenges, I knew that she really was in love with the book.
I’ve begun teaching night classes, so my reading class is being discontinued. There was something heartwarming about hearing my students say, “But teacher, how will we know what happens in the community?” I felt proud as a teacher to know that even if they couldn’t understand Fahrenheit 451 (and who can? let’s be honest here), and even if they didn’t really connect with My Brother Sam Is Dead, they have been able to connect on a personal level with a book that has shaped my life.
The Giver taught me the importance of simply feeling emotion. Even if it is negative, an emotion always has a lesson to teach us. Trying to escape from our feelings has seldom led to good results over the course of human history. Embracing our trials, our hardships, and our pains hand in hand with our successes, our triumphs, and our happiness has given birth to some great heroes through time. “The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”
If you haven’t read it, do yourself the service of enjoying one of the best pieces of literature I have ever had the privilege of reading.