With the upcoming release of The Giver, I've seen and heard more concern about the controversy around this book. Released in 1993, The Giver is similar to Matched, The Hunger Games and Divergent, and contains some of the themes found in 1984 by George Orwell.
In fact, I think that it's possible that those who have read and loved The Giver are more likely to write, read, and love other dystopian novels.
Dystopian isn't new, it's been around for a few hundred years, and in early the 20th century, Jack London was one of the first American dystopian writers. Don't knock it as a new, untried, or simply "of the moment" genre.
Here are some of my thoughts on The Giver: What it is and What it isn't.
The Giver by Lois Lowry is an award-winning book that includes heavy topics such as: depression, emotional control over society and individuals through the use of mandatory medications, infanticide, and euthanasia.
The Giver by Lois Lowry is not a book that condones suicide or suicidal tendencies.
In fact, I believe that Lois Lowry paints a very negative picture of all of the above controversial topics. Throughout The Giver, and the books in the series following it, Lowry portrays Christian, Biblical values in an imaginative way that doesn’t flinch from heavy topics.
It’s not something that I would read with most elementary school students.
It is something I required my oldest to read as part of her 8th grade literature course that also included Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” and Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Game. She also read Little Women, The Tempest, The Old Man and the Sea, and other classics that year. We were discussing the role of individuals in society, and the role of society in an individual’s life. We discussed Biblical principles like free will, predestination, sin, salvation, grace, and the Great Commandment and Great Commission. We discussed WWII, communism, and the fear in Western society of communist and socialist government – the government of The Giver is decidedly communist.
It’s not a book I would suggest having a student read in a vacuum without any historical or social context. It’s definitely not a book that students should read without having a chance to discuss the heavy topics introduced within its pages.
It is a worthwhile read. Infanticide, euthanasia, depression, emotional control and uniformity through medication, and a society that values conformity to a politically correct totalitarian rule are topics we could all take some time to think about in our era. They’re current events.
If you can’t handle reading the daily news, then don’t read The Giver. It’s not a light read.
The Giver will make you think. It will make you uncomfortable with infanticide and euthanasia. It will make you celebrate our freedom to feel the full range of emotions. You will probably cry when you read it. And our ability to cry, laugh, and embrace our loved ones will be something you will celebrate after you’ve read The Giver.