According to the American Library Association (ALA), young adult novels are challenged with the best intentions. In most cases a parent will read a book that their child might be reading in class to find out if the book is hazardous to their child’s well-being. If the novel seems problematic, the parent then challenges the book. Even though the purpose of challenging a novel is to keep children from reading about issues that may not be seen as appropriate for their age group, censoring children from difficult subject matter is not always the solution.
There is always controversy when difficult issues arise in adolescent geared novels. Even though there are many concerns with Lois Lowry’s The Giver, this book should not be banned from the Coopertown Middle Library. The Giver is about an eleven-year-old boy named Jonas is a light-eyed boy who lives in a Utopian society. Within his society, there is no suffering, no hunger, no war, no color, and no love.
There is no uniqueness and everyone is, in essence, the same. No one leaves the community unless they are released, which normally only happens to elderly adults, sick infants, or those choosing to break the rules.
When the children turn twelve, they are assigned professions. Jonas was skipped when it was his turn to receive a profession, and at the end of the ceremony he is selected to be The Receiver of Memory. He is the apprentice of The Giver, an elderly man that was the former receiver, which gives him memories of humanity. Jonas gets to experience things like color, emotion, landscapes, passion, all things that are not present in his community. Even though he gets to experience good things like sledding down a hill, he is also exposed to war and death. All of this new knowledge causes Jonas to feel a need to rebel.
No one in his community has ever felt any of the things he has recently experienced, and this makes him wonder what else his community is keeping from him. A year later, Jonas finds out that when the community releases people, which again, only happens to the very elderly, the sick infants, and the rule breakers, they are actually lethally injecting them. This strikes a cord with Jonas, not only because of the moral issue, but also because he and his family are nursing a sick baby, Gabriel, back to health. Gabriel is a lot like Jonas in that he has light eyes, a trait that only The Receiver can have.
In order to prevent Gabriel from being released, Jonas and The Giver devise a plan to fake his own death with the intention of running away to Elsewhere, a place that is the complete opposite of his community, with Gabriel. If The Receiver escapes the community, all of the memories are then made public. Not only will they have to deal with the new emotions, but also they will understand what it means to have choices. Even though Jonas is risking his and Gabriel’s lives, he knows that this is the best decision, not only for him, but also for his community.
The night before he decides to put his plan in action, Jonas learns that Gabriel is to be released the next morning. He has to act quickly, and proceeds to take Gabriel and his bike, and runs away quickly. Weeks later, hungry and tired, Jonas is still biking with Gabriel. Jonas precedes to try to give Gabriel memories of happiness in order to prevent him from dying. Finally, it starts to snow and they reach a hill with a sled. He sleds down the hill, fully confident that when he reaches the bottom he will be Elsewhere.
One of the first things that critics seem to notice is the Utopian environment in which the book is set. This is challenged because parents do not want their children to think that perfection is something that is attainable. While this may be a valid point, what parents must realize is that Jonas is aware of the imperfections of his community midway through the novel. He begins to understand that the perfect world that he is growing up in has had many flaws in its past, and he is quick to devise a plan to make others in his community aware of this. I can’t request a release, I know that. But what if something happened: an accident?. . . Then there would be a new Receiver, but you have already given away an awful lot of important memories, so even though they would select a new Receiver, the memories would be gone except for the shreds that you have left of them? And then what if—” (Lowry 143). Jonas is feeling things that no one in his community has ever felt before. He is beginning to understand that others are missing out on important emotions.
He knows that The Giver has already given away most of the memories, and in order to stop the process, he must make a sacrifice in order for his community to be aware of what they are missing. This proves that he is conscious of the fact that his community is not perfect, and the act of staging an accident is a noble, selfless thing to do; something that his perfect peers would not understand. When talking about the harms of banning books and by quoting Lois Lowry, Jennifer Kendall states, “The world portrayed in The Giver is a world where choice has been taken away.
It is a frightening world” (Kendall). Kendall makes the point that the Utopian society is not something that people strive for. As a middle-schooled child, it is easy to see that life is not perfect. I feel as if Lowry does a great job in showing the reader that Jonas does understand that his community is not perfect, and he goes to great links to stop the perfection. While there may seem to be many reasons why a Utopian society is harmful, it is easy to see, especially near the end of the novel, that Jonas is willing to make a sacrifice to end the perfection.
He is only willing to do this after he knows what it is like to be the receiver of memories. He is willing to run away from “the life where nothing was ever unexpected. Or inconvenient. Or unusual. The life without color, pain, or past” (Lowry 165). Only after he understands his society’s imperfection is he really aware of how harmful it is to be perfect all the time. By reading the book, it is evident that an Utopian environment is normally only perfect on the surface. This book acts in the same way, it is only controversial at its surface, one must read deeper to understand its the true message.
The second thing that many critics are observing is the topic of euthanasia. Euthanasia has been defined as the act of putting someone, or something, to death painlessly. This is seen throughout the novel when people within the community are released when they are elderly, sick infants, or choose to break the rules. “The Giver, according to a report by the People for the American Way, was the second most frequently challenged book in 1996” (Lord). The immorality of releasing someone from the community is something that parents do not want their children exposed to.
Naturally, any parent would not want their children exposed to something so unethical. However, it is important to look at the reaction of Jonas, the character that the adolescent reader will most relate to, when he finds out what it means to be released from the community. “To his surprise, his father began very carefully to direct the needle into the top of the newchild’s forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly” (Lowry 149). Jonas is appalled. Not only is he furious with what is going on, his father is the one administering the injections.
He does not want to return home. “Jonas felt a ripping sensation inside himself, the feeling of terrible pain clawing its way forward to emerge in a cry” (Lowry 151). Even though this issue is very unethical and not easily brushed off, Jonas’s reaction is one that a normal student in middle school would have. By reading this book, the reader is forced into understanding how wrong this society functions. Even though the topic of euthanasia is a controversial one, a middle school student is capable of seeing its flaws, and will be able to relate to Jonas’s response.
Lowry has equipped Jonas with the qualities he will need to rise above his difficult circumstances. She has given him the ability to see color, the ability to grapple with imperceptible ideas (like memories and colors), and faith in his own ability to act morally. (Lord) Lowry intentionally makes Jonas a relatable character. If Jonas was not noble and moral after receiving the memories, then this book would be a candidate for challenging. However, it is what Jonas does with his new memories that make this book needed in Coopertown Middle Library.
Jonas truly cares about the well-being of Gabriel, and ultimately he wants to save him from being released. At this point in the book, the reader might think that Jonas will be too overcome with emotion and to be able to do what he has planned. Critics see this part of the book as the ultimate rebellion on Jonas’s part. The important thing to notice is that Jonas “does overcome his despair, and this is why the book is so important—and appropriate—for young people to read” (Lord). Jonas overcomes his fear for Gabriel’s release and acts accordingly.
While the topic of euthanasia is still in full swing, Jonas is fighting against with all his might. I first read this book as a sixth grader. When I read this book, my teacher made the point that it was a Newberry Award winner, and that the message within the book is one that would make the book worth reading. We proceeded to read the book, discuss it in class, and were made aware of the primary message the book was trying to send. It never occurred to me that the Utopian society, or the releasings were something that would be so upsetting.
Maybe it was because my teacher did a wonderful job at letting us discuss the book, and let us draw our own conclusions as to how we should feel about the things that were taking place within the storyline. As a sixth grader, my primary intake was not shock over the killing of babies or elderly people, but it was more of amazement that people could live in a place with no emotion or feeling. I, like Jonas, wanted them to understand what it was like to be able to live freely with choices and color. My parents never asked to see the book, and I am unaware if they have ever read the book.
However, I think that it is important to notice that as a sixth grader, I was more intrigued by Jonas and his story, than the society and what was going on within it. A middle school student reading this book is going to relate with Jonas, and while they will see and understand what is going on within his community, they will more than likely be more interested in how Jonas is going to deal with these things, than how his society is flawed. Lowry states that this book is used as a “vital need of people to be aware of their interdependence” (Lowry Biography).
This is what I think that middle school students are most looking at. Through my own experience with this novel, I found myself wanting to know where Jonas was going to end up when everything was said and done. His impact on his society my have ended with him running away, but what he ultimately gave back to his community is something that will never be forgotten, literally. His memories will become the memories of everyone, and I think by making this statement Lowry takes away from all the controversy that people may see within her novel.
All in all, this is a wonderful book. A book that tells a story of a boy whose newfound memories strike a fire in him to make his society a better place for everyone. Within his seemingly perfect community, there are many flaws. These flaws must be addressed in order for the reader to understand Jonas’s purpose. Even though these flaws are at times unethical and immoral, without paying attention to these imperfections Jonas would loose his place within the pages of the novel.
This book is a must read for our middle school students and shoule not be banned from the Coopertown Middle School Library.
Kendall, Jennifer. “The Giver by Lois Lowry. ” About. com. The New York Times Company. 2012. Web. 21 April 2012. Lord, Elyse. “The Giver. ” Novels for Students. Detriot: Gale. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 March 2012. Lowry, Lois. “Biography” Lois Lowry. Lois Lowry. 2011. Web. 26 March 2012. Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Boston. Bantam Books. 1993. Print
Cite this Why the Giver Should Not Be Banned
Why the Giver Should Not Be Banned. (2017, Jan 07). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/why-the-giver-should-not-be-banned/