What is more valued – personal rights or the common good of the community? In The Giver, written by Lois Lowry, a boy perfectly adapted to his unique community named Jonas begins to open his eyes, sees the reality of his world, and searches for the true values in life. In this community, the citizens want to live a simple, predetermined life and also strongly believe that they are living in a “perfect” society through the system of sameness which eliminates risks.
However, they do not have any knowledge of history and the time before the idea of sameness except for The Receiver, the person who holds all the memories of the delightful but sometimes painful past. When Jonas gets chosen as the next Receiver, The Giver who is responsible for handing down his memory to the next Receiver gives Jonas the memories that hold the power to open a new era and bring change to the community. Those memories help Jonas see his world in a different perspective.
As a result, Jonas realizes that his society is not at all “perfect” but terribly wrong and has a strong desire to change these false beliefs. Dystopia is a futuristic universe in which the illusion of a flawless society is maintained through strong, powerful control made by the government. In The Giver, the citizens in Jonas’ community are living in a dystopian world due to the fact that they do not possess any freedom nor rights as a human in the community for the greater cause. The residents in Jonas’ community living in an oppressive and deprived world are treated less than a human being throughout the book.
As Jonas gains more knowledge, Jonas and The Giver discuss the big flaws of the community and during the first couple months of training, he is very uncomfortable talking about the flaws of the “perfect” community that he believed in and breaking the rules that he had followed for twelve years of his life. For example, while having a discussion with The Giver during his training session, “[Jonas] glanced quickly at the wall speaker, terrified that the Committee might be listening as they could at any time” (Lowry, 132).
Every house has a speaker and the speaker is used to make announcements and enforce rules; the community members are used to their every move being watched and scrutinized by the speaker. While Jonas never addresses the role of the speaker, he shows discomfort with speaking about things that he does not want The Elders to know about during training, and he constantly has to remind himself that the speaker is off before asserting about his thoughts to The Giver.
This shows that the speaker is restricting freedom of speech because of the constant surveillance and the fear of speaking their mind. It demonstrates the pervasive role of the speaker in aspects of community life which is an example of a characteristic of a dystopian society. In addition, there are more rights taken away by the government that Jonas disagrees with. In the community, The Elders force the people to take pills to stop the stirring, sexual dreams that citizens receive starting from their adolescence.
However, Jonas confesses, “He had not taken the pills, now, for four weeks. The stirrings had returned… But he knew he couldn’t go back to the world of no feelings that we had lived so long” (Lowry, 164). The only feeling that the people can feel without the memories is love from the stirrings, however, they do not know the concept of feelings because this was also eliminated.
As a result, Jonas’ belief that it was right to take the pills changes after he receives the memory of love because he learns that feeling of love is restricted and controlled by the pills. hich also controls the population and limits the people to choose their own spouse. This eliminates the freedom to express feelings and the freedom to choose which does not give the most important characteristics of being a human. Whether it is expressing emotion or thoughts, freedom of expression is an essential part of human life and when this is taken away, it takes away unique qualities of being a human; it is just like being treated as an animal being whipped with cruelty.
In The Giver, The Elders who are the leaders and the members of the government decide on an answer; they choose to let go of the individual right such as freedom of speech and freedom to choose that people had fought for in the past in exchange for the development as a nation which leaves the people without any rights as citizens nor a human being and makes their world a dystopia. The search for what is more important between individual or community good still remains as a mystery for people today and will never have a definite answer. However, this lesson would at least benefit everyone from choosing the wrong answer.