In The Giver, memories are a source of wisdom, but also of pain. We learn that the latter is the cost of the former. We learn from mistakes, and without the memory of those mistakes, we cannot actively make decisions about the future. The novel also argues that memories are meant to be shared; there is a value in the collective knowledge of a generation, and in the way that knowledge is passed on to others. Without the sharing of memories, the memories themselves are of no use.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- What is the value of memory in The Giver? Why does the community need it preserved?
- What are the consequences of giving only one person the responsibility of keeping all the memories?
- What's the difference between personal memories and the general memories that The Giver passes on to Jonas? Which of these two does Jonas rely on at the end of the novel? Are you sure about that? Better go read the end again.
Chew on This
Jonas does his community a service by leaving and releasing the memories to the public.
Jonas's decision to abandon his community is selfish.
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It takes the average human brain roughly 115,197 Ft. /sec. to send nerve signals through the brain to make a complicated decision. However, in Jonas’s community, the number is reduced to 0 because, they do not think of any complex choices. I shared this with you because one of the themes in Lois Lowry’s science fiction novel The Giver is “Choices cannot be made without wisdom and knowledge of the past”. This is displayed in many times in the book. Three examples are; the elders asking the Giver for advice on important tasks, Jonas’s father releasing a baby, and Jonas’s choice to leave community.
The first examples of the theme take place after Jonas recently received the painful memory of war. That memory had poured him over the edge of bearing the memories. He had then started to question why the Giver and himself must bear the memories. In response, the Giver had said these memories had given them “Wisdom”. He referenced the time the Elders asked his approval of adding a third child to the family unit. Then, he went on to say, “The committee of elders sought my advice, the Giver said. It made sense to them, too, but it was a new idea, and they came to me for wisdom”…”And the strongest memory that came back was hunger.
It had came from many generations back. Centuries back. It was followed by warfare” (111). This is directly stating that he made a choice on what to do. This was all due to the fact that he had knowledge of past experiences, like hunger. He had known that if they went on with this idea, hunger could arise. Now, no one else could make this choice, because no one had known what hunger even was. Luckily, they had the Giver to ask for the final choice, solely because he had this knowledge of what was to come. This next example pertains to Jonas and his father. When you’re the receiver of memories, you are allowed to get anything you want.
Something Jonas had wanted too see was a release, since no citizen is allowed to watch. They had gotten the release of this morning. Jonas’s father, to determine which of the twins would stay, performed this one. As the baby was injected with the “serum”, Jonas watched, horrified. He started to freak out at what he just saw. He had known all too well, what death means. The giver had tried to calm him down, and said, “Listen to me Jonas, they know nothing” (153). This had gotten to Jonas because he had experienced bad memories, and knows what death caused and where death comes from.
The society has been raised, if you will, into one which death is normal. The nurturers, like Jonas’s father, don’t have the knowledge of death from the past. Therefore, they can’t make the choice to stop releasing the kids. It is a different view of things. The people who have known about all the bad things about death see that what there doing is wrong. This is why Jonas was horrified, and he would change this if he had the power too. On the other side of the spectrum, people like his dad, don’t think it’s a bad thing to do. They couldn’t make the choice to not execute people when necessary, because it was just part of life.
There was no other way, for them. Relating back, the ones who don’t have previous knowledge of death, in this case, weren’t able to make a decision. This theme is also shown in a big risk that had a big impact on the story. I’m talking about the choice Jonas made to leave the community. Jonas had been receiving memories for a year and he knows about all sorts of things. He knows about the good memories, like sunshine, and the bad ones, like sunburn. He knows that if he stays here, all the information will be kept inside him, but if he leaves, the memories, both good and bad will be released to everyone into the community.
Instead of keeping them, the Giver and him make a daring plan for Jonas to leave and go to elsewhere. “It was possible, what they had planned. Barely possible. If it failed, he would very likely be killed. But what did that matter? If he stayed, his life was no longer worth living” (155). Jonas knew about a time when everyone had bore the memories, a long time ago. He wanted it to be like times way back and it was because of him knowing all these memories that he made the decision to leave his home. Only someone with knowledge of this sort can make such a bold and daring choice.
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Whether through Jonas or the Giver, there are many instances where the theme of decisions cannot be made without knowledge of the past is displayed. Be it through the Giver making choices for the community, Jonas’s father releasing babies without emotion, or his daring risk to leave the community, all had to have an insight of the times long ago. These were some of the ways that captured the essence of this theme throughout the novel. So, next time you try to judge someone you meet, find out about their past. Because what you know in the past, will inform you on the choice you make in the present.
Author: Brandon Johnson
The Giver Theme Essay
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