The Giver is a 1993 American young adult dystopian novel by Lois
Lowry. It is set in a society which at first appears to be utopian but
is revealed to be dystopian as the story progresses. The novel follows
a 12-year-old boy named Jonas. The society has taken away pain and
strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan that has also eradicated
emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the
position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past
memories of the time before Sameness, as there may be times where one
must draw upon the wisdom gained from history to aid the community's
decision making. Jonas struggles with concepts of all the new emotions
and things introduced to him: whether they are inherently good, evil,
or in between, and whether it is even possible to have one without the
other. The Community lacks any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all
in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of
equality beyond personal individuality.
The Giver won the 1994
Newbery Medal and has sold more than 10 million
copies worldwide as of 2014. In Australia, Canada, and the United
States, it is on many middle school reading lists, but it is
also frequently challenged and it ranked number 11 on the American
Library Association list of the most challenged books of the 1990s.
A 2012 survey based in the U.S. designated it the fourth-best
children's novel of all time.
In 2014, a film adaptation was released, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl
Streep and Brenton Thwaites. The novel forms a loose quartet
with three other books set in the same future era, known as The Giver
Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012).
2 Literary significance and criticism
3 Awards, nominations, and recognition
6 External links
Jonas, a 12-year-old boy, lives in a Community isolated from all
except a few similar towns, where everyone from small infants to the
Chief Elder has an assigned role. With the annual Ceremony of Twelve
upcoming, he is nervous, for there he will be assigned his life's
work. He seeks reassurance from his father, a Nurturer (who cares for
the new babies, who are genetically engineered and so Jonas's parents
are not biologically related to him) and his mother, an official in
the Department of Justice, and is told the Elders, who assign the
children their careers, are always right.
The day finally arrives, and Jonas is assembled with his classmates in
order of birth. All of the Community is present, and the Chief Elder
presides. Jonas is stunned when his turn is passed by, and he is
increasingly conspicuous and agonized until he is alone. The Chief
Elder then explains that Jonas has not been given a normal assignment,
but instead has been selected as the next Receiver of Memory, to be
trained by the current one, who sits among the Elders, staring at
Jonas, and who shares with the boy unusual pale eyes. The position of
Receiver has high status and responsibility, and Jonas quickly finds
himself growing distant from his classmates, including his close
friends Asher and Fiona. The rules Jonas receives further separate
him, as they allow him no time to play with his friends, and require
him to keep his training secret. They also allow him to lie and
withhold his feelings from his family, something generally not allowed
in the regimented Community.
Once he begins it, Jonas's training makes clear his uniqueness, for
the Receiver of Memory is just that—a person who bears the burden of
the memories from all of history, and who is the only one allowed
access to books beyond schoolbooks, and the rulebook issued to every
household. The current Receiver, who asks Jonas to call him the Giver,
begins the process of transferring those memories to Jonas, for the
ordinary person in the Community knows nothing of the past. These
memories, and being the only Community member allowed access to books
about the past, give the Receiver perspective to advise the Council of
Elders. The first memory is of sliding down a snow-covered hill on a
sled, pleasantness made shocking by the fact that Jonas has never seen
a sled, or snow, or a hill for even the memory of these things has
been given up to assure security and conformity (called Sameness).
Even color has been surrendered, and the Giver shows Jonas a rainbow.
Less pleasantly, he gives Jonas memories of hunger and war, things
alien to the boy. Hanging over Jonas's training is the fact that the
Giver once before had an apprentice, named Rosemary, but the boy finds
his parents and the Giver reluctant to discuss what happened to her.
Jonas's father is concerned about an infant at the Nurturing Center
who is failing to thrive, and has received special permission to bring
him home at night. The baby's name will be Gabriel if he grows strong
enough to be assigned to a family. He has pale eyes, like Jonas and
the Giver, and Jonas becomes attached to him, especially when Jonas
finds that he is capable of being given memories. If Gabriel does not
increase in strength, he will be "released from the Community," also
in common speech termed being taken Elsewhere. This has happened to an
off-course air pilot, to chronic rule breakers, to elderly people, and
to the apprentice Rosemary. After Jonas casually speculates as to life
in Elsewhere, the Giver educates him by showing the boy hidden-camera
video of Jonas's father doing his job: as two identical community
members cannot be allowed, Jonas's father releases the smaller of
identical twin newborns by injecting the baby with poison before
putting the body in a trash chute. There is no Elsewhere for those not
wanted by the Community, those said to have been "released" have been
Since he considers his father a murderer, Jonas initially refuses to
return home, but the Giver convinces him that without the memories,
the people of the Community cannot know that what they have been
trained to do is wrong. Rosemary had been unable to endure the darker
memories of the past and had chosen release, injecting the poison into
her own body. Together, Jonas and the Giver come to the understanding
that the time for change is now, that the Community has lost its way
and must have its memories returned. The only way to make this happen
is if Jonas leaves the Community, at which time the memories he has
been given will flood back into the people, as did the relatively few
memories Rosemary had been given. Jonas wants the Giver to escape with
him, but the Giver insists that he will be needed to help the people
manage the memories, or they will destroy themselves. Once the
Community is re-established along new lines, the Giver plans to join
his daughter, Rosemary, in death.
The Giver devises a plot in which Jonas will escape beyond the
boundaries of the Communities.
The Giver will make it appear as if
Jonas drowned in the river so that the search for him will be limited.
The plan is scuttled when Jonas learns that Gabriel will be "released"
the following morning, and he feels he has no choice but to escape
with the infant. Their escape is fraught with danger, and the two are
near death from cold and starvation when they reach the border of what
Jonas believes must be Elsewhere. Using his ability to "see beyond," a
gift that he does not quite understand, he finds a sled waiting for
him at the top of a snowy hill. He and Gabriel ride the sled down
towards a house filled with colored lights and warmth and love and a
Christmas tree, and for the first time he hears something he believes
must be music. The ending is ambiguous, with Jonas depicted as
experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. This leaves his and Gabriel's
future unresolved. However, their fate is revealed in Gathering Blue
and in Messenger, companion novels written much later.
In 2009, at the National Book Festival, the author
Lois Lowry joked
during a Q&A, "Jonas is alive, by the way. You don't need to ask
that question." 
Literary significance and criticism
While critical reception of
The Giver has been mixed, the novel has
found a home in "City Reads" programs, library-sponsored reading clubs
on citywide or larger scales.
Some reviewers have commented that the story lacks originality and is
not likely to stand up to the sort of probing literary criticism used
in "serious" circles, while others argue that books appealing to a
young-adult audience are critical for building a developing reader's
appetite for reading. Karen Ray, writing in The New York Times,
detects "occasional logical lapses", but adds that the book "is sure
to keep older children reading".
Young adult fiction author Debra
Doyle was more critical, stating that "Personal taste aside, The Giver
fails the Plausibility Test", and that "Things are the way they are
(in the novel) because The Author is Making A Point; things work out
the way they do because The Author's Point Requires It". In their
review of The Giver, Johnson, Haynes, and Nastasis, teachers at Wright
State University, mention that they received both kinds of reaction
when they conducted a research based on students' reactions about The
Giver. Johnson, Haynes, and Nastasis write that, although the majority
of students said either they did not understand the novel or did not
like the novel, there were students who were able to connect with
Jonas and to empathize with him.
Natalie Babbitt of The Washington Post was more forgiving, calling
Lowry's work "a warning in narrative form", saying:
The story has been told before in a variety of forms—Ray Bradbury's
Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind—but not, to my knowledge, for children.
It's well worth telling, especially by a writer of Lowry's great
skill. If it is exceedingly fragile—if, in other words, some
situations do not survive that well-known suspension of
disbelief—well, so be it.
The Giver has things to say that cannot be
said too often, and I hope there will be many, many young people who
will be willing to listen.
Awards, nominations, and recognition
Now, through the memories, he had seen oceans and mountain lakes and
streams that gurgled through woods; and now he saw the familiar wide
river beside the path differently. He saw all of the light and color
and history it contained and carried in its slow-moving water; and he
knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere
to which it was going.
Lowry won many awards for her work on The Giver, including the
Newbery Medal – The John Newbery award (Medal) is given by
the Association for Library Service to Children. The award is given
for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for
The 1994 Regina Medal
The 1996 William Allen White Award
American Library Association
American Library Association listings for "Best Book for Young
Adults", "ALA Notable Children's Book", and "100 Most Frequently
Challenged Books of 1990–2000."
A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
Booklist Editors' Choice
School Library Journal
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A 2004 study found that
The Giver was a common read-aloud book for
sixth-graders in schools in San Diego County, California. Based on
a 2007 online poll, the
National Education Association
National Education Association named it one of
"Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". In 2012 it was ranked
number four among all-time children's novels in a survey published by
School Library Journal.
Oregon Children's Theatre (Portland, Oregon) premiered a stage
The Giver by
Eric Coble in March 2006. Subsequent
productions of Coble's one-hour script have been presented in several
In the fall of 1994, actor
Bill Cosby and his ASIS Productions film
company established an agreement with Lancit Media Productions to
The Giver to film. In the years following, members of the
partnership changed and the production team grew in size, but little
motion was seen toward making the film. At one point, screenwriter Ed
Neumeier was signed to create the screenplay. Later, Neumeier was
replaced by Todd Alcott and
Walden Media became the central
Diana Basmajian adapted the novel to full-length play format, and
Prime Stage Theatre produced in 2006.
Ron Rifkin reads the text for the audiobook edition.
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Minnesota Opera co-commissioned
and premiered a new opera by Susan Kander based on the novel. It
was presented in Kansas City in January and Minneapolis on 27–29
April 2012, and was webcast on 18 May 2012.
The Giver (film)
Jeff Bridges has said he had wanted to make the film for nearly 20
years, and originally wanted to direct it with his father Lloyd
Bridges in the title role. The elder Bridges' 1998 death cancelled
that plan and the film languished in development hell for another 15
years. Warner Bros. bought the rights in 2007 and the film adaptation
was finally given the green light in December 2012.
Jeff Bridges plays
the title character with
Brenton Thwaites in the role of Jonas.
Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Alexander
Taylor Swift round out the rest of the main
cast. It was released in North America on August 15, 2014.
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Lois Lowry - 2009 National Book Festival". YouTube. 2009-11-05.
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Wayback Machine.", form the Library of Congress's Center for the Book
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2003 p. 19.
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^ Karen Ray, "Children's Books", The New York Times, October 31, 1993.
^ "Doyle's YA sf rant". Sff.net. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
^ Johnson, Angie; Haynes, Lurel; Nastasi, Jessie (2013). "Probing Text
Complexity: Reflections on Reading
The Giver as Pre-teens, Teens, and
Adults". Virginia Tech. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
^ Natalie Babbitt, "The Hidden Cost of Contentment", Washington Post
May 9, 1993, p. X15.
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Regina Medal Recipients - Catholic Library Association".
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GIVER' as feature film", Entertainment Editors September 28, 1994
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July 10, 2003
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^  Archived April 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
^ "Minnesota Opera presents webcast of Susan Kander's
The Giver on May
18 and 23" (PDF). Mnopera.org. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
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Lois Lowry Confirms Jeff
Bridges to Film The Giver". Studio 360. Archived from the original on
December 29, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
^ Mullins, Jenna (September 27, 2013). "
Taylor Swift is a 'Giver,' not
a taker". usatoday.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
^ Busis, Hillary (September 27, 2013). "
Taylor Swift will co-star in
long-awaited adaptation of 'The Giver'". Entertainment Weekly.
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