The Giver frustrates me because it has high school themes at a middle school reading level. In high school, the rebels start to show their mettle. The things you talked about doing in middle school you do or do not do in high school. Everything feels as confusing and new as it did to Jonas. But how I could ask my students to take me seriously as a teacher with this novel is a mystery. I mean, it’s just a few vocab words above The Hatchet in terms of difficulty.
I don’t want to disparage Lois Lowry’s work because it was written to a particular audience. It’s positively overflowing with creativity. The dystopia feels fresh in an inundated genre. I suppose the way to teach it would be over a two day reading period — enough to cover the subject without sending the wrong message about the students’ capabilities. Now on to the book itself.
The most interesting element, to me, was having Jonas assigned to the Giver. Few knew what the Giver was doing to his life, but they knew it was important that he see him regularly. Notice he wasn’t sneaking off at night to an abandoned old shack to see a crazy, old man. This was very much condoned by the authority figures in his life. Far past the typical message of “it’s OK to be different!” comes a more nuanced one: “it’s hell to be different”. You want to see colors and experience love? Good. Here you go. Now try to live with others who can’t grasp any abstract concepts. As a would-be writer, I feel for Jonas. It’s not an issue of feeling that I’m better than anyone; leagues of people are smarter than me. It’s an issue of asking them to respect what isn’t there. Until they read what you’ve wrote, you’re asking them to be OK with your imaginary friends that you spend all your time with. It’s even worse when your peers have radical misconceptions about writing – that we’re all Jack Kerouac with our methamphetamines and butcher paper and On The Road just pours out of us perfectly. (And even that story probably isn’t true.) I doubt Lowry was speaking to ‘creative people’ specifically with this novel, but man, it’s hard for it to be more true for anyone else. Writing is not frowned upon; like Jonas going to the Giver, society tells us it is necessary. But the assumption is that a select few are seeing these rare colors and the rest are just latching on. And some are. (Looking at you, coffee shop dwellers.) I say God bless those who try to have the best of both worlds.