Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Giver by Lois Lowry: Impressions

I do not read children's books. I think I stopped reading them when I was still a child. Harry Potter, LOTR, and the works have never been part of my bookshelf. Fantasy fiction has never been my thing. But I am glad I read The Giver.  I liked it, probably, because it isn't a children's book in the traditional sense of the word. It is more like a book for adults, who like to read kiddie-style fiction, like my husband - Viren. That's how the book has now got into, our bookshelf.

Anyhow, The Giver is a good book. More so, because it reminds one of George Orwell's 1984. A controlled society with little or no freedom makes for the background of the book, where the protagonist - Jonas - lives with his family unit. A painless society of safe choices lives under some strict codes, follows a dreary principle of 'sameness' so that there will be equality, and is bereft of 'useless' things as emotions and music and art and colour.

Jonas is chosen to be the community's next Receiver (of memories) at the age of 12, just like all other children are assigned their respective occupations for life, and goes to be an apprentice with the current one (The Giver). He receives from his teacher memories of things and feelings he has never known before, and life changes for him. He forges a deep bond with The Giver, learns some terrible secrets about the community and about life outside the community - Elsewhere. He begins to believe that things must change, and he and The Giver hatch a plan that will set them free from the burden of centuries of memory.

The Giver poses an intriguing view of a society minus the things we so take for granted. It also makes us ponder upon the importance of memories, a life without any abberations, and the scope for the humane aspect of humanity in a 'perfect' society. How worthy would life be without pain or joy or love?

Apart from the plot, the book is also striking in its lucidity. That such complex ideas, about a world completely different from ours, could be conveyed with such easy precision, is amazing. But I suppose simplicity of language is a prerequisite of writing children's fiction. The more I grow as a reader, a writer and a human, the more I am awed by, and understand, the power of simplicity. The author, Lois Lowry, obviously knew what she was talking about.

However, the book failed me with its ending. A forced denouement, as it were, pushes the protagonist to the edge of Elsewhere (the real world) with promises of joy, and leaves behind a great many loose ends about the life he has run away from. The author has imposed a sense of heroic on the protagonist, just because it must be done. But there was, perhaps, no other way to end what was so beautifully begun.

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