“Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.”
And if you take people to a world far far away from sadness, you’re inevitably separating them their happiness. What will the people in such a world come to, how will they begin to behave, understand, comprehend things? What else will they loose?
Summary: Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.[Source: Goodreads]
From the get go, the Giver puts us in a ‘perfect’ world. A world where there is absolute equality, where no one is left to die of hunger, where there is no pain, no fear, no violence no fights. But still, it has a weird feeling about it, and Jonas feels it too. There is the absurd system of all parents being ‘assigned’ children, the place called ‘Elsewhere’, mysterious ‘releases’ of old people and people who break the stringent rules of the community, the rules that in themselves make us uncomfortable, a number of rules, both strict and minor, the rule about apologizing, the rule of dream-tellling, the rule to not lie, the rule against coming out of your houses in night-time, against speaking the name of those released, against locked doors, against bragging. These rules are the ones that begin to dispel my illusion of this society being a Utopian one at first, for a world with so many rules to be called perfect doesn’t really seem right. It shows a community built on equality brought about these rules, an equality so absolute that it does not even permit the existence of colors.
Our apprehensions are slowly given a firmer base. As our protagonist, Jonas, on spending more time with his mentor, slowly learns about the workings of the community, and as we spend more time with the book ourselves, the horrors of the community are slowly revealed to us. Even the word ‘horror’ barely covers the nothingness, hollowness of the community. Slowly, we are shown, matter-of-factly, those things that are foreign to the society, those things that are so much everyday to us that we don’t even acknowledge their existence. The Giver gives to us Dystopia through a Utopia all the while making us treasure and love more than ever all the little things that surround us: by completely ignoring them at first and then conjuring them up, one after the other, defining them and experiencing them.
The Giver is not just an average book, it is a masterpiece, and like any wonderful piece of art there is nothing that can be said about it that will do it justice and yet there is so much that demands to be said as it slowly leads one into the vault of thoughts and imagination. It is not a book to be read halfheartedly as it breaks boundaries in making us think and it gives a voice to all those things that we have always taken for granted. And as all other great stories, it is labelled as a ‘Children’s book’.
And, of course, it reminded me a lot of 1984 by George Orwell which had a Dystopian setting with similar features.