Book Review: The Giver
“He did not know what his selection meant. He did not know he was to become.
Or what would become of him.” - The Giver, end of chapter eight
The Giver is a classic and rightly so! A well written and profound dystopian with messages that are very important for this age in particular—especially the message of valuing life, all life. This book made a huge impact on me regarding the pro-life side of things when I read it in middle school. I never really considered much before what abortion really entailed, but the danger surrounding little Gabriel and their "selection process", as well as the people's inability to see the wrong of their actions or that they were even taking a life really hit home for me and started to shape my pro-life stance. This being said, re-reading it as an adult I've definitely noticed some things that might be of concern.
Some Qualms and Warning for Parents:
There are some more mature scenes. There is a part in the book where Jonas is wondering about the rule of not seeing anyone naked besides babies and the elderly and then shortly after shares a dream where he desires to be with his friend Fiona.
Obviously this is a normal part of growing up and is biologically normal and not a bad thing in itself, it’s actually a good thing in the proper context like when with one’s spouse. And there’s nothing wrong with Jonas having these biological urges. Of course we need to be in control of our passions and be chaste in our state in life and it is wrong to consent to these urges or desire something sinful, but it’s not good to take a pill like they do in this dystopian society to forever suppress something that is natural. Now Jonas does try to recall the image, which wouldn’t be good, and it is said he does so guilty, but then he realizes the pill has suppressed it.
Now, this all being said, I feel even this message is valid in a sense.
While promiscuity is alas common in our society, I think ultimately there is a cheapening of what should be a beautiful, sacred thing—a cheapening or misunderstanding that we also see in this dystopian society but to a different extreme.
There is a part where The Giver says he advised against increasing the population and allowing a third child because of the fear of starvation as if population in itself is the cause of that, which is false. There are a lot of factors to why people suffer starvation. It is not about how many people are in the world. So I feel this gives the wrong message but also serves to shame large families, which is a very common problem nowadays (the shaming, not the large families). More citizens also means more people with various sets of skills and intelligence to better help the community as a whole.
All in all, I wouldn't forbid my child when they're of an appropriate age from reading this book. I would just have discussions with them about parts of it. I do think there is a lot of good to be taken from this classic story and a lot to be learned.