Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Giver

A while back (earlier this year, I think, but my memory is being weirdly random about time right now), I read the book The Giver. I then read most of it to Ace out loud while he drove. And we had to keep stopping while I was reading to talk about the book.

If you haven't read it, I do recommend it. It's about a boy named Jonas who lives in a controlled community. He turns 12 and is given his job, which he will start to do right away and will be doing for the rest of his life. Most of the people in his community work in the fish hatchery, or take care of babies, or deliver food. Jonas gets a very different job. He's to be the keeper of memories.

Part of the reason I like rereading books (this is related, just give me a moment) is that I get to notice something I missed the first time around. Sometimes it's months later (like today).

For The Giver, I noticed this:

Jonas, who was getting the memories of all of civilization, suddenly had PTSD. And he had no one to talk to about it, except the Giver. Who would understand, but wouldn't be able to help fix it. He would have to live with the memories of war, starvation, broken bones, poverty, loss, hate, fear, and all the bad things until the next keeper of memories was chosen (sometime in his future). He would, of course, have all the memories of love, sunny days, peace, joy, riches, color, and all the good things as well.

The scene that really made me realize that he had PTSD was one where he, after experiencing war, saw his friends/the other children, playing a pretend war game. They pretended to shoot each other and die, and to them it was just a fun game. To Jonas, he was suddenly inundated with memories of a real war. And he froze up, caught in between both worlds.

This stark contrast between what the other children know and what Jonas knows is shocking. Jonas, as much as he wants to, can never regain his innocence. The reader, no matter how much they want to, can't give Jonas back his innocence. They just have to hope that Jonas can cope, because they are on the outside, looking in.

The book has an ambiguous ending. I'm not going to put it here, as there are many details I left out and you should really go read the book. And while some people have been disappointed by the ending, I liked it. It's okay to not tell the readers everything. (That ending becomes less ambiguous if you read the sequels to The Giver, but they are well worth the read too.)

The best thing about the book is that it should make you ask questions. Questions like: How much freedom are you willing to give up to feel like your life is safe? Would you give up your chance to choose? Would you give up your sense of color? Would you give up on trying to find your passion as a job to work a government mandated job that hopefully fulfilled you?

And how much of that safety would you give up to get those things back if you lost them without knowing you had lost them?
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