Lois Lowry is known for her dystopian novels for young adults. One out of many novels is her work ‘The Giver’. The Giver exposes the story of Jonas, a boy who questions his society’s standard of living. Jonas’ people tend to have false perceptions of their world being supposedly ‘perfect’. On the other hand, ‘Gathering Blue’ – a companion novel to The Giver – reveals the story of orphaned and handicapped Kira who also questions her society and is led to provide evidence to the Council of Guardians that she is worthy of existence in her disdainful society.
Both of these texts are known as dystopian fictions and are a form of sci-fi. The inclusion of narrative conventions such as plot, setting, characterisation and theme convey that these novels are a work of dystopian fiction. ‘The Giver’ and ‘Gathering Blue’ are both novels that contain evident features of a dystopian fiction. A dystopia is an imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror.
However, a dystopian fiction is set in a dystopia thus comments on our own world and influences readers to fear to live in that society.
Examples of a dystopian society could vary from post-apocalyptic; where there has been a past devastating event that changed and manipulated the society to an alternative version of our reality which we see the difference in the standard of living in comparison to ours. The setting incorporated in The Giver demonstrates that it is clearly a dystopian fiction as it presents an alternative version of our society. Jonas’ world made the choice of living in Sameness – a place where neither warfare, starvation or poverty, emotions, nor freedom exist.
Sameness without a doubt restricts one’s diverse individuality, coloured visuals and emotions. This is shown through the extract, “Our people made that choice to go into Sameness… before my time… we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences… but we had to let go of others. ” (p. 124). It explains that the people of Jonas’ world have limited knowledge of such things as they can not experience pain nor genuine happiness. From this, we can identify this as an element consisted in a dystopian novel. Similarly, the setting of Gathering Blue also creates an image that it is a dystopian fiction.
Although the novels explore similar features, The Giver is supposedly set as a ‘utopian’ society, whereas Gathering Blue is purposely a dystopian. The novel is set in a future state where social dominance is present. Kira’s society is governed by authoritative figures known as the Council of Guardians. The Council of Guardians holds the right to decide whether one should live or be sent to the Field of Leaving. Kira also described her world to be disordered. This is evident through the statement, “Kira continued through the crowds, past the food shops and the noise of bickering, bargaining women.
Dogs barked… Nearby, a curly headed tyke eyed both dogs warily then deftly leaped between them, seized the bit of food, and stuffed it into his own mouth. His mother, intent on her business… glanced around, saw the tyke, yanking at his arm… and administering a sharp slap to his head when he was back at her side” (p. 53). Within the novel, it is hinted that Kira’s society is post-apocalyptic. This is shown through the embroidery and imagery on the Singer’s Robe as well as the annual ceremony in which they call the ‘Ruin’. The characterisations of both Jonas and the Giver are strong examples of a dystopian fiction.
The inclusion of the Giver as a disobedient within the novel supports this. Throughout the progression of the novel, the Giver undertakes the role of Jonas’ mentor when Jonas is assigned the Receiver of Memory. Unlike the many others in their society, The Giver is not a prime example of a law-abiding citizen. The Giver, alongside with Jonas, are convinced of the hidden downsides of Sameness. This is shown through the extract, “ ‘He killed it! My father killed it! ’ Jonas said to himself, stunned at what he was realising. ” (p. 188).
This quote reinforces that Jonas is a dynamic character and develops the dystopian concept. Another characterisation put forward by author Lois Lowry is the main protagonist of Gathering Blue. Kira, a two-syllable crippled orphan is given a second chance to live, reason being that she holds the capacity of colour and needlecraft within her hands despite her deformity. Having stated that, Kira’s society demeans the weak, leaving them to rest in the Field of Leaving. Although Kira is shunned upon within her community, Kira relies solely on her gift in order to contribute to the community and survive.
This is proven through Katrina, Kira’s mother’s words, “But as I held you – even then with your spirit not yet arrived and with your leg bent wrong so that it was clear that you would not ever run- even then, your eyes were bright. I could see the beginning of something remarkable… And your finger s… I could not let them take you away. I simply told them no. ” (p. 5). Therefore, it conveys that both narrative’s inclusion of these characters is proven to be works of dystopian fictions through featured characteristics.
The use of plot demonstrated in The Giver reveals that the novel can be defined as a dystopian fiction. The protagonist, Jonas begins to ponder the unknown of his society constantly when having been granted the gift and assignment of ‘Receiver of Memory’. Being assigned the Receiver of Memory, Jonas preserves the memory of their past, along with having the capability to visualize his community’s past as well as illustrating colour and emotions. His community lives in Sameness, where everything is the same, where diversity lacks. The statement, “Why can’t everyone see them?
Why did colours disappear? ” (p. 124) tells us that his interrogations led him to sheer curiosity to the extent where he witnesses a clearer insight into his so-called ‘ideal’ society. Another statement by The Giver, “… memories need to be shared… you needed me then and now they will…” (p. 194-196) foretells Jonas escaping his disingenuous world. This goes to show that Jonas has been led to believe countless lies and has contemplated on his whereabouts throughout which then reveals the initiative that he along with the Giver must flee to Elsewhere.
The purpose of plot featured in Gathering Blue typifies that it is a work of dystopian fiction. The novel begins in the Field of Leaving, where the main character, Kira had just witnessed her mother, Katrina’s death. This event had altered the character’s outlook on life immensely when is forced to move out of her home and prove her acceptance in her society. Kira is then given a second chance to start anew in the council edifice where her task is to prepare the robe for their annual ceremony which commemorates the destruction of their past.
Gathering blue shares the similar storyline to that of The Giver. Some of these qualities include; the character coming to realisation with their society. This element is shown when Kira questions her community if beasts exist, the creatures that had supposedly killed her father, Christopher. Also, in similarity to The Giver, the authoritative figures – which in this case are the Council of Guardians – concealed many truths about their society, hoping that confinement and terror would keep the community under their control.
The response by Jamison, member of the Council of Guardian, to Kira’s speculations stating, “She’s very old. It’s dangerous for her to speak that way. ” (p. 128) as reference towards Annabella. When Kira is convinced of the negative aspects of her society, she is given the choice to live with her ostensibly deceased father, Christopher in another community just a few days walk from hers. A place where disabled people dwell together in harmony. Kira refused, in sheer desperation that she could help her own community; changing their way of life. This is another factor that is typically seen in dystopian fictions.
Both Kira and Jonas undertake strategies to bring down and defy their society that restricts them and take action into helping their people see the much negative features of their world. One out of many themes explored within The Giver is the lack of freedom. Jonas’ society is strictly governed and operated by Chief Elders. The Chief Elders play a vital role in the community by implementing rules and keeping the community stable. They also have complete control over one’s assignment, spouse and children. Extracts from the novel that explains this are, “The Committee of Elders chooses the right job…” (p. 1) and “But that choice is not ours. ” (p. 111). These quotes clarify that Jonas’ confined community are not exposed to decision-making or the sense of freedom. This theme is one of the key components in identifying the novels as a work of dystopian fiction. The theme convey throughout the novel of Gathering Blue would be the lack of freedom and human rights. The Council of Guardians makes the crucial decisions for the community whether minor or major. Lack of freedom is conveyed heavily within the novel as it is a source typically introduced within dystopian novels.
This is portrayed when the character describes mothers locking up their tykes in pens. This also moves onto the theme of human rights being disregarded among the citizens. The right of speech, freedom and fair treatment is expressed through the text. These are proven through the novel when; the people of Kira’s community are not obliged to an entitled opinion as they are not given the right to – quote given, “They were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be. ” (p. 212). This statement above is just one clear example in which reinforces the theme.
Kira’s society is centred around resentment and fear. These traits are shown through actions hence develops the concept of inhuman treatments being brought out. The significance of earning freedom and having an adequate standard of living is the key component in making this a dystopian novel. The colour blue is the focal metaphor implied in the novel to represent freedom. Lois Lowry uses narrative conventions as a key element in developing these stories. Both novels, The Giver and Gathering Blue share the qualities of those featured in typical dystopian novels.
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