Despite its classic, award-winning, status, I had never read the The Giver by Lois Lowry. But tempted by a cheap Kindle offer, I picked it up and read it recently. I am still not sure how I feel about it. I enjoyed it but wonder how much my philosophical agreement cloud my literary judgement.
Here is the succinct product description on Amazon:
Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.
It is a very interesting story that moves from Utopian to Dystopian and an ambiguous ending. And I enjoyed is simple yet compelling style. The lack of any real context of back story helps ratchet up the tension and drives the story forward.
Clearly an allegorical warning or commentary on the dangers of seeking to sand off all the edges and remove any sense of danger from freedom; about how “sameness” – even well-intentioned attempts to avoid conflict and hurt feelings – can morph into oppression.
Philosophically I cheer on any such message, but the question is whether the message over-comes the story and results in bad literature that tells a story I agree with.
I don’t think this is the case. I think the skill with which Lowry tells the story and the evocative way she makes the reader think about the ideas is artful and literary even if there is a clear and strong message.