The community in which Jonas lives is perfect. The Elders oversee the smooth running of society, organising people into family units and deciding which occupation best suits an individual. Transgressions are dealt with swiftly. The community is a happy one, full of politeness and respect. When Jonas becomes a Twelve he is singled out to be the new Receiver. The Receiver holds all memories, and they are transmitted one by one from The Giver; memories of sunlight, snow, Christmas. But also memories of war, cruelty and pain. And for the first time, Jonas sees the truth about his perfect community.
Not since I read The Road have I been so emotionally affected by a book. The Giver contains only a tiny fraction of the horror contained in Cormac McCarthy's bleak exploration of a "godless" landscape, but like The Road, The Giver directs the reader to consider the fate of a single boy.
The Giver is told with childlike naivety from Jonas's viewpoint. It is a joy to read a dystopian novel in which the author leaves, breadcrumb-like, clues about the society for the reader to follow. Too often lately I have read books in which things are stated baldly: this is like this, and we are persecuted because of this et cetera et cetera. The community does seem like a perfect place to live. The care, respect and love of the Old, for instance, I found particularly touching, and the closeness of each family unit. The idea that everyone's profession is handpicked for them based on their aptitude, while overbearing, seems almost a legitimate way for a society to function. There is the sense that society reached a breaking point making such intervention necessary.
It is because of this childlike voice that when Jonas (and the reader) becomes privy to the sacrifice that must be made by one individual in order to make this "perfect" society function, it is all the more horrifying. The Giver is a story about the ills and joys of choosing ones own path and whether individuals should be protected from unpleasant truths. But ultimately, this book questions whether the comfort of many can justify the suffering of one.
The Giver broke my heart. It is an excellent novel.