Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Giver: Lois Lowry (1993)

            The Giver is a science fiction children’s novel written by Lois Lowry (1993).  Within The Giver, a young boy named Jonas approaches his “Ceremony of Twelve,” where he would be given the assignment of the new Receiver (Lowry, 1993, p. 14).  The new life Assignment and the insight that it brought quickly changes Jonas’ perception of the community in which he belongs; with his newfound knowledge as Receiver, Jonas must make a life changing decision that could impact the community dramatically. 
            The Giver is classified as a science fiction novel in which the author explores a theoretically futuristic society influenced by scientific developments (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  Lowry (1993) created a believable and detailed world/setting that allowed the reader to vividly imagine such occurrences within the novel. With such scientific advances portrayed, both the writer and readers are able to contemplate the possible consequences of the events that occurred (Galda et al., 2010).  The plot and the events are consistent throughout the novel, and are greatly influenced by the scientific advances within the community.  Science fiction novels such as The Giver are also known for their in-depth characterization.  Each character, whether Jonas, Mother, Father, or Asher are described in great detail, allowing for readers to become acquainted with each individual, and his or her contribution to society.  Jonas, however, is multidimensional, and grows throughout the story.  The style of The Giver is also greatly influenced by word choice (diction) and sentence structure (syntax); within the novel, Lowry (1993) uses phrases such as “the Old,” “Ceremony of Twelve,” “’Jonas has been selected,’” “’…the Capacity to See Beyond,’” “’We thank you for your childhood,’” and many more phrases to fit within the futuristic community she created (p. 44; 45; 60; 63; 64).  Lastly, The Giver allows readers to contemplate life within the science fiction novel, and question the significance of memories, feelings, independence, and more (Galda et al., 2010). 
Galda et al., (2010) also discussed Lowry’s novels and their dystopian stance.  According to the National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE] and the International Reading Association [IRA] (2006), a dystopia is an imagined, futuristic universe “in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control”.  Dystopian societies are often controlling, citizens are under surveillance and fear outside communities, individuality is seen as a bad characteristic, and the society is often thought to be a utopian society.  Lastly, the protagonist or main character may feel trapped and question the society’s ways. 
The author, Lois Lowry, wanted to be a writer since she was a young girl (Scholastic Inc., 2013).  Writing was the subject that Lowry enjoyed the most while in school.  Lowry even called herself an introvert, and said that as a child, she preferred to curl up and read rather than spend time with friends.  When writing became her career, Lowry chose to write books of various styles and content, but a theme she tended to stick to was “the importance of human connections” (Scholastic Inc., 2013).  Though the list is quite extensive, several other of Lowry’s novels include A Summer to Die, Messenger, and Number the Stars. 
For as long as I can remember, I have heard about Lowry’s The Giver.  Personally, I loved it!  I ordered the book, and after 4 days, I finished the novel and wanted to read more.  The Giver was the type of book that made me feel what the characters were feeling; for example, when Jonas was waiting for his Assignment, my heart was racing and I could not read fast enough to find out what happened.  This book would be appropriate for 5th-7th graders, and  I wish that I would have read this book when I was young, and preferably at the age of 11; at this age, I could have questioned what Assignment I would have been given, and if such a society would have been right for me.  After considering this question, I think that I would have been assigned to an Instructor (teacher). 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
1.       The first activity would be a writing assignment in which students would write which Assignment he or she should be assigned to by the Committee of Elders.  Assignments for the Twelves include Birthmother, Nurturer, Caretaker of the Old, Story Teller, Laborer, Doctor, Instructor and more (Lowry, 1993).  Students are to choose an assignment which he or she feels fits him or her best.  Within the essay, students are to have an introduction, body, and conclusion.  In the body of the essay, students need to explain why the Committee should or would pick him or her for the Assignment.  Also within the body, students are to state which Assignment would be his or her least favorite, and why they would not fit that Assignment. 
2.      The second assignment would be a classroom debate.  The students would be divided into 2 groups: Dystopia and Utopia.  Students will support whether they think the community in which Jonas lives is a dystopia or a utopia.  Each group will be given the chance to visit the computer lab and research either dystopia or utopia.  After researching, students will take evidence from The Giver to support their position.  With several days to prep, the students will then engage in a friendly classroom debate.  Students are to behave in a professional manner, and are expected to be respectful to the opinions of others, and to speak in-turn only. 
Reader Response Questions:
1.       What was the author trying to say about life and living through this book?
2.      If you were Jonas, what would you have done towards the end of the book?
3.      If Lowry were to write a sequel to The Giver, what do you predict would happen next?
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
Wadsworth, Inc.
Lowry, L. (1993).  The Giver.  New York, NY: Random House, Inc. 
NCTE & IRA (2006).  Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics.  Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  Biography: Lois Lowry.  Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  “The Giver.”  [online image].  Retrieved from

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