In a distant future, our society has eliminated pain and hardship by converting to “Sameness”. The other side of the coin is that through a mix of medication, social control and genetic engineering, we have also eradicated emotional depth from our lives. The Giver follows the story of a boy named Jonas who on his twelfth anniversary is selected to become the “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, if present leaders need advice in handling new situations.
Apart from the previous Receiver, Jonas is the only person in his community who knows, for instance, what snow is, since all hard climate conditions were with the Sameness.
The book is a typical blue pill/red pill scenario: would you prefer ignorant bliss or the hard truth? I always answer the truth without hesitation, but then again, I’m not starving and have a warm and safe bed to sleep in.
The Giver is also one of the most “challenged” children books in libraries and schools across the US. It deals with harsh topics, topics we wish children wouldn’t have to deal with, but it’ done in an intelligent way, without paternalism or white lies. The euthanasia and suicide scenes creeped the hell out of me, but I remember myself at 12 and wish I had read this book at that time. It would have had a bigger impact then. Why not talk openly about depression, suicide, massification and loss of individualism then, at the threshold of adulthood? But then again, it’s easy to talk now, when I’ve been through it and still don’t have children.