In an effort to add yet another book to my ‘shelf of pride’ I borrowed “The Giver” from a friend. It was a wholly unexpected storyline and it was marvellous.
The story follows young Jonas who is caught up in the predictable life of a small community obsessed with perfection and ‘sameness’. In order to avoid the dangerous consequences of individuality and free choice the community is built around control where no one chooses his or her own path. The more eerie part would have been the parallel between this fictional community and the Chinese cultural revolution under Mao. In the story each morning and evening the characters would sit in their ‘family units’ and share their dreams from the previous night and feelings from the day. The other members of the unit would then discourage strong emotion with reason and understanding until everyone felt content (if anything at all).
How is this like the cultural revolution? In order to control everyone beneath him Mao created mandatory journalling for hours each day where all emotions, thoughts, conversations throughout the day had to be meticulously recorded or risk being accused of withholding anti-Mao sentiments. People gradually went mad and were unwilling to speak to others or even think negative sentiments for fear of having to write them down. Why would a community choose to live this way? (ok, its fictional, but just a rhetorical question anyway)
The boy that the story is centred around is given the great honour of being the new Receiver of Memory. He is destined to take on the memories of the entire world when there was still emotion and pain and love. For the first time he is able to question how his community operates. Unable to open the eyes of his family and friends he can no longer turn back to emotionaless ignorance.
The community put all of their suffering and pain onto one person in order to be in control. But how much did they lose?
I could go on forever about this book but I won’t. But I could. But my hands are really cold. And i’m in class.