In the depths of a hypothetical world, a futuristic society achieves perfection through “sameness”. In this social system, sameness is reflected in the human’s lack of choice and freedom. By eliminating differences among mankind, sameness upholds social structure, keeps order, and emphasizes the ideals of equality over individuality. This world is portrayed in Lois Lowry’s famous novel The Giver, where people’s perception of society represents a perfect world created by social control. Contrary to the utopian sameness depicted in the world of The Giver, the protagonist Jonas understands how this perfect world is truly a dystopia. A dystopia outlines a world without freedom, and as the novel progresses we gain insight on the why a perfect world cannot exist. A utopian society is created to end human suffering and hopes to reach mere contentment for everyone in a perfect world. However, one person or a group must suffer, which gives the rest of society an illusion of equality and sameness. In relation to the theory of philosopher Thomas Hobbes, The Giver represents a dystopia, where the state of nature has an outward appearance of liberty that reflects perfection however reality is different. Contrasting what Hobbes believes creates a moral society, shows how the society from giver uses social contrast to make it appear everyone is truly happy.
In “The Giver”, complete sameness occurs from forming a society with no pain, suffering, or violence. The organization of the community is dictated solely from the committee of “elders”. Elders of the village are elected, given sovereign authority, and maintain control over all members of society. Dwellings, children, marriages, assembly of families, food, and jobs are all assigned by a higher power. All human actions are monitored, and they are genetically engineered to see the world in black and white. In addition, the weather and natural resources are scientifically controlled. They eliminated war, poverty, and crime because when humans are not able to choose and make decisions, perception of morality is lost, and thus there is no need to commit bad deeds. With sameness, emotions such as love, hate, and empathy are suppressed from human behavior to avoid conflict. All memories of life before sameness is erased from the human collective.
Only the chief elders are aware of the suffering before sameness, and chose to remove these feelings to protect everyone else. Only Jonas can empathize with these memories, as he has the extraordinary ability and “capacity to see beyond”. The giver’s job is to provide Jonas with all the prior memories and leave the fate of their community in his hands. He is shown visions of snow, war, culture, and is able to see color. He is finally able to feel, and truly understand the beauty of what has been taken from the human condition. These feelings can be both negative and positive, but having the choice to experience these events is what makes us human and defines our character. It adds a dimension of individuality and most importantly gives individuals hope.
His view of the supposed utopia crumbles when he discovers a hidden truth buried deep into the formation of society. He witnesses an infant being euthanized by his own father. His whole life he thought the elderly, infants, and anybody unfit for society is sent to live in an outside community they referred to as “elsewhere”. Jonas realizes that his father does not have the feeling of empathy, and is killing this child without knowledge. This strikes a fire in his characters, who questions the sovereign authority and wants to bring the memories back to his community. He realizes that sameness is a façade, and that everyone is protected to think there is no moral flaw in their living. By taking away their emotions that cannot distinguish the wrongdoings of killing children, and this represents that those sent to elsewhere suffered for the benefit of everyone in the community.
Thomas Hobbes, a renowned social theorist, contains ideology that connects to the futuristic world depicted in The Giver. His view is based on liberalism, which is the doctrine that views individual freedom as the most important value in the world. He also describes that rational beings will consent to a state of absolute sovereign authority. The elders represent and maintain the social control which leads to a world without freedom. The elders remove the memories of war from their subconscious, which evidently goes along with Hobbes theory. He focuses on the act of moving away from the conditions of war in civil society. Hobbes argues that if humans were given the choice and a sense of individuality they would naturally be in war with one another.
He describes a scenario where humans will choose to form a state and give up right to private judgement, as the sovereign authority will make decisions for them. He places importance on the fact that all people are equally powerful and vulnerable. The dystopia structured in The Giver enhances sameness to stray from war, which Locke notions will occur when everyone claims a right to everything. The reasons for spreading sameness in Jonas’s community coincides with Hobbes reasoning for the creation of a state. He claims that the only way to end war is to allow central authority with the power to make and enforce law. Conflict in society derives from chaotic condition. When people have the opportunity to choose their actions, they will automatically create chaos because there are no rules or limitations. Hobbes theory epitomizes that the world in this novel is one without freedom, because of the power given to the elders. Due to the social control over the community, only Jonas realizes that their world contains suffering for the lives of every other individual to feel equal.
Hobbes view of sovereign authority aligns with that from the novel, however his discussion on individual freedom is in contrast from The Giver. He states that individual freedom is most important for the human condition, but those in the novel lack, these freedoms. In conclusion, Hobbes view on a creating a state to promote individual freedom is similar to that from the novel, except it does not respect the rights of the community. Although, everyone appears to live happily, they are really suppressed in society because of the hidden truths they are protected from.