Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is one of the most thought provoking children’s literature book I’ve ever read.
Jonas, a Twelve (twelve year old boy), was smart and inquisitive. He lived in a community with his younger sister, Lily, and his mother and father. This community was like non other. Years before, people of this community decided that they would prefer to live without having to feel pain and loss. They decided that they wanted to establish committee’s to determine what each individual would do and act like during certain periods of their lives. Committee’s determined such things like:
• Who you married
• Who your children would be (and how many you were given)
• What your children’s names would be
• What you do for a living when you reached the age of Twelve
- Job Assignments were given (by the Chief Elder) at a Ceremony for all the children who were born in one year and were turning Twelve. Pilots, engineers, laborers, recreation director, and childcare providers were all types of job titles given to the “Twelves” in order to begin their training. But their were also jobs titled Nurturer, Birthmother, Fish Hatchery Attendant, or the Receiver of Memory (one of the most prestigious assignments given).
• How you would act in each year before you turned Twelve (i.e. at nine years old children get a bicycle and girls don’t have to wear hair ribbons any longer, at seven years old children begin wearing their jackets with the button in the front, children who are age 4, 5, and 6 “all wore jackets that fastened down the back so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence.” (p. 40)
• How you responded to certain situations, the words you used, and the words you didn’t use.
• Punishments people received for not following established rules
• Which babies were strong enough to live and which ones were “Released”
• Where adults of a certain age went to retire and eventually be “Released”
• No more colors
• No more seasons
• No more birds flying overhead
This community existed to remove all anguish and bad memories. One person was determined to be the holder of all memories good and evil including historical events. This selected individual was called the Receiver of Memory and was used for giving advice to the Committee of Elders when situations arose that they could not decide what to do when the situation arose. This one person, the Receiver of Memory, had the burden of everyone else’s happy and sad moments and feelings.

The Receiver of Memory was getting old and a new one needed to be trained so that he/she could begin taking on the position. Jonas was given this assignment at the Ceremony of Twelves. He began training immediately. The current Receiver of Memory was now called “The Giver” as he began giving his memories over to Jonas. The Giver would put his hands on Jonas’ back and beautiful memories of snow, and sledding were transferred to Jonas. But as the training continued over the months Jonas had to receive memories of death, dieing, and pain. Jonas was determined to do his job and help take these memories away from The Giver (because The Giver was so weighted down by so much anguish and sorrow). Until one day Jonas found out what really happened to babies that didn’t measure up to the community’s standards.

Now that Jonas had feelings (that were transferred to him by The Giver) he became distraught to find out that the word “Released” meant death. He, in turn, discovered that his father (who was a Nurturer – cared for babies before they were given to families) did the “Releasing” himself. Jonas watched on a screen how his father took a needle full of some sort of deathly medicine and stuck it in the babies head because the baby was a twin but was the one that weighed the least amount. This baby was considered to be the inadequate of the twins and must be “Released.” The father’s expressions, his words, and his lack of feelings were now evident to Jonas and Jonas decided that this community was one that he no longer wanted to be apart of.

The ending was suspenseful, but confusing. Jonas escaped with a little baby named Gabriel. Jonas found out that it was just determined that Gabriel (who was living in his home for a short while in an effort to help his chances of not be released) was going to be “Released.” The journey was hard and Jonas memories helped them through hard nights of cold and hunger.

This book was absolutely fascinating! I’ve read other books by Lois Lowry like Number the Stars. Another fantastic book! I’ve been trying to find out how the author came up with this idea other than she wanted to write about a place of utopia (and if there really one that exists).


  1. I read that she came up with the idea for this book as her parents were aging. She kept sharing photos with them trying to help them hold on to their past. She was imagining what life would be like without memories.

  2. If you read Lowry's Newberry speech (
    I think you will find the answer to your question on how she got the idea for this book. The speech itself is so well written and is a story in itself. I found the origination of her idea to be a combination of things--and quite fascinating. One thing I found very interesting is that the picture of the Giver on the front of the book is of the artist, Carl Nelson. He was an artist that Lowry worked closely with who had the ability to see beyond colors and became blind as he got older. She mentioned how there was something about his face--specifically his eyes--that haunted her.