J.G. Keely's Reviews > The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
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did not like it
bookshelves: science-fiction, contemporary-fiction, childhood, novel, reviewed, america

Lowry's book is a piece of nationalist propaganda, using oversimplification, emotional appeals, and dualistic morality to shut down her readers' minds. More troubling is that it is aimed at children, who don't yet have the critical faculties to defend themselves from such underhanded methods.

Unsurprisingly, Lowry adopts the structure of the monomyth, equating a spiritual journey with a moral one. Her Christ-figure uses literal magic powers to rebel against his society. This rebellion and the morality behind it are presented as 'natural', to contrast with the 'abnormal morality' around him.

Lowry doesn't seem to understand that we get our morality from our culture, it isn't something in-born that we 'lose'. This is the first hint of Lowry's misunderstanding of the human mind. She assumes her own morality is correct, and then builds her story to fit it.

She also makes the character act and think like a modern person would, despite never adequately explaining how he came up with such unusual notions. It's the same trick many historical fiction authors use, leaving us scratching our heads as to why a Fourteenth Century French peasant speaks like a second-wave feminist. I'd suggest that Lowry falls to this fault for the same reason they do: she has no talent for imagining how others might think differently.

Lowry's book ends with the standard nonspecific transgressive spiritual event that marks any overblown monomyth. Since the book is not a progressive presentation of ideas, it does not suggest any conclusion. Instead, the climax is a symbolic faux-death event (symbolic of what, none can say). Confusingly, Lowry later redacts the ending in the sequels, undermining the pseudo-spiritual journey she created.

Though some call this book 'Dystopian', it's closer to the truth to say Lowry borrows elements from the Dystopian authors, attempting to combine the spiritual uplift of the monomyth with the political and social deconstruction of the Dystopia. What she doesn't recognize is that the faith of the one conflicts with the cynicism of the other. She draws on ideas and images from many other authors: Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell, Burgess, but doesn't improve upon them.

These authors created novels that reflected the world around them. They based them on the political events of the times, presented with realism and careful psychology. Though they presented the struggle between the individual and the society, they portrayed morality as grey, and suffering as the result of individual human faults, not political systems. Lowry doesn't realize that the best way to critique Fascism or Communism is not to present it as 'evil', but to simply present it as it was.

But Lowry's world is not based in reality, it is symbolic and hyperbolic. Instead of writing about how poverty makes the world seem small and dull, she has the characters magically unable to experience life. Instead of an impersonal government, she presents a sort of evil hippy commune.

The only political system it resembles is a school, which is a neat little trick to get the kids interested. The idea that 'school=unfeeling totalitarian hell' is not an uncommon one, but it's one I'm surprised teachers would support. The book also suggests a creche, but lacking similarity to any real-world system, it doesn't work as a political criticism.

Lowry creates this artificial world to suit her purposes, but it is not a symbolic exercise like 'Animal Farm'. We understand that the pigs of animal farm are symbolic, because there are no talking pigs. Lowry's world is more insidious, since its oversimplification is hidden. She builds an artificial world to support the dualist morality that she's pushing. She presents the same knee-jerk fears about euthanasia and abortion that people use against Women's Rights or Health Care.

Worse than these Straw Man arguments is the fact that she never deals with the economic causes of totalitarianism. Tyrants don't just rise up and take control by their own force of will, they come into power because of the socioeconomic situations that surround them. Lean times produce strong, fascist leaders while profitable times produce permissive, liberal societies.

Strong, centralized leadership simply doesn't self-propagate in cultures where everyone is clothed, fed, and housed. The Holocaust was socially about some ideal of 'change' and 'purity', but it was economically about the transmission of wealth from Jews, Poles, and Catholics to Germans (and more specifically, to those Germans who had elected the new ruling party).

The atrocities of war are, for the most part, committed by normal people on other normal people. By presenting the power structure as 'amoral' and 'inhuman', Lowry ignores the fact that people will willingly cause others to suffer. Painting the enemy as 'evil' and 'alien' is just an unsophisticated propagandist method.

She contrasts her 'evil' with the idealized 'goodness' of emotion, beauty, and freedom. This is nothing more than the American dream of 'specialness' that Mr. Rogers was pushing for so many years. We are all special, we are all good, we all deserve love and happiness. Sure, it sounds good, but what does it mean?

Where does this 'specialness' come from? If it is just the 'sanctity of human life', then it's not really special, because it's all-encompassing. If all of us are special, then none of us are. There's nothing wrong with valuing life, but when Lowry presents one mode of life as valuable and another as reprehensible, she ceases to actually value humanity as a whole. Instead, she values a small, idealized chunk of humanity. 'People are good, except the ones I don't like' is not a moral basis, nor is it a good message to send to kids.

If the specialness is only based on fitting in with a certain moral and social guideline, then Lowry isn't praising individuality, she's praising herd behavior. The protagonist is only 'special' because he has magic powers. His specialness is not a part of his character, it is an emotional appeal.

The idea of being a special individual is another piece of propaganda, and its one kids are especially prone to, because kids aren't special: they are carefully controlled and powerless. Giving a character special powers and abilities and then using that character to feed a party line to children is not merely disingenuous, it's disturbing.

There is also a darker side to universal specialness: giving a child a sense of importance without anything to back it up creates egotism and instability. Adults noticed that children with skills and friends had high self-esteems, but instead of teaching their children social skills and knowledge, they misunderstood the causal relationship and tried to give them self-worth first.

Unfortunately, the moment unsupported self-worth is challenged, the child finds they have nothing to fall back on. Their entitlement didn't come from their skills or experiences, and so they have nothing to bolster that sense of worth. Instead, any doubt sends them down a spiral of emotional instability.

A single book like this wouldn't be the cause of such a state in a child, but it does act as part of the social structure built to give a sense of worth without a solid base for that worth. People like to believe they are special, kids especially so, but being a remarkable person is not a result of belief but of actions. If the book had informed them, then it would leave them better off, but giving them a conclusion based on emotional appeals does nothing to build confidence or character.

Many people have told me this book is good because it appeals to children, but children often fall for propaganda. Children develop deep relationships with pop stars, breakfast cereals, and Japanese monsters. This does not make them good role models for children.

Feeding 'specialness' to kids along with a political message is no better than the fascist youth programs Lowry intends to criticize. The obsession with individuality is just another form of elitism. It's ironic that people in America most often describe themselves as individuals when pointing out the things they do to align themselves with groups.

But banding together in a community is not a bad thing. For Lowry and other 'Red Scare' children, any mention of 'communal' can turn into a witch hunt, but we all give up some personal rights and some individuality in order to live in relatively safe, structured societies. There are benefits to governmental social controls and there are drawbacks, and it's up to us to walk the line between the two. Anarchy and Totalitarianism never actually exist for long: we are social animals.

It's not difficult to understand why Lowry is so popular, especially amongst educators. The message she gives aligns perfectly with what they were taught as kids, from Red Scare reactionism to the hippy-dippy 'unique snowflake' mantra. These ideas aren't entirely misguided, either. It's good to recognize the benefits of difference and the dangers of allowing other to control our lives.

If a reader believes that fascism and socialism are inherently wrong and that their own individuality is their greatest asset, they will likely sympathize with Lowry's work. However, this doesn't make the book honest, nor beneficial. One of the hardest things we can do as readers is disagree with the methods of authors we agree with ideologically.

It makes us feel good to find authors who agree with us, but this is when we should be at our most skeptical. Searching the world for self-justification is not a worthwhile goal, it simply turns you into another short-sighted, argumentative know-it-all. 'Yes men' never progress.

Lowry is toeing the party line. She does not base her book around difficult questions, like the Dystopian authors, but around easy answers. She doesn't force the reader to decide for themselves what is best, she makes it clear what she wants us to think. Her book is didactic, which means that it instructs the reader what to believe.

Even if her conclusions about Individuality vs. Community are correct, she doesn't present arguments, she only presents conclusions. Like rote memorization or indoctrination, she teaches nothing about the politics, social order, economics, or psychology of totalitarianism or individuality. The reader is not left with an understanding, just an opinion.

The baseless 'individuality' of the book lets the reader imagine that they are rebels--that they are bucking the system even as they fall into lock-step. By letting the reader think they are already free-thinking, Lowry tricks them into forgetting their skepticism.

She is happy to paint a simple world of black and white, and this is likely the world she sees. I doubt she is purposefully creating an insidious text, she just can't see past her own opinions. She writes this book with a point to make, and makes it using emotional appeals and symbolism. She doesn't back it up with arguments because she doesn't seem to have developed her opinions from cogent arguments.

In the end, she doesn't show us that the structure of this society is wrong, she says nothing poignant about individuality vs. community; instead, she relies on threats to the life of an innocent infant. Yet nowhere does she provide an argument for why communal living or the sacrifice of freedoms for safety must necessarily lead to infanticide.

In politics, making extreme claims about the opposing side is called mud-slinging, it is an underhanded and dishonest tactic. It works. Arguing intelligently is difficult, accusing is easy, so that's what Lowry does.

She is another child of WWII and the Cold War who hasn't learned her lesson. She quickly condemns the flaws of others while failing to search out her own. Even after the Holocaust, there are many racist, nationalist, violent Jews; conflict rarely breeds a new understanding.

America condemned the faceless communal life of the Second World, and yet America created The Projects. We critiqued strong governmental controls, but we still have the bank bailout, socialized medicine, socialized schooling, and socialized charity. America condemned the Gulags and Work Camps, and yet we imprison one out of every hundred citizens; far more than Stalin ever did. Some are killed, all are dehumanized.

As a little sci fi adventure, the book isn't terrible. It's really the pretension that goes along with it. Lowry cobbles together religious symbolism and Dystopic tropes and then tries to present it as something as complex and thoughtful as the authors she copied. Copying isn't a crime, but copying poorly is.

Like Dan Brown or Michael Crichton, she creates a political pamphlet of her own ideals, slaps a pretense of authority on it, and then waits for the money and awards to roll in--and they did. Many people I've discussed this book with have pointed to those awards as the surest sign of this book's eminent worth.

Award committees are bureaucratic organizations. Their decisions are based on political machinations. This book is a little piece of Nationalism, and so it was lauded by the political machine that Lowry supports. The left hand helps the right. If awards are the surest sign of worth, then Titanic is a better movie than Citizen Kane.

What surprises me is how many of those who brought up the award as their argument were teachers. If a politically-charged administrative committee is the best way to teach children, then why do you take umbrage when the principal tells you that bigger class sizes (and fewer benefits) are fine? Listen to him: doesn't he have award plaques?

The other argument is usually that 'kids like it'. I usually respond that kids also like candy, so why not teach that? Some people also get angry at me for analyzing a book written for children:

"Of course it's not a great book, it's for kids! If you want a good book, go read Ulysses!"

I prefer to give children good books rather than pieces of political propaganda (even if they agreed with me). Children can be as skeptical, quick-witted, and thoughtful as adults if you give them the chance, so I see no excuse for feeding them anything less.

Kids aren't stupid, they just lack knowledge, and that's a fine distinction. It's easy for adults to take advantage of their naivete, their emotionality, and their sense of worth. Just because it's easier for the teacher doesn't mean it's better for the child.

When we show children something that is over-simplified, presenting an idealized, crudely moralizing world, we aren't preparing them for the actual world. If you give a child a meaningless answer to repeat, he will repeat it, but he won't understand why.

Why not give the child a book that presents many complex ideas, but no rote answers, and let them make up their own minds? If they don't learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff and form their own opinions early, in a safe, nurturing environment, what chance will they have on their own as adults?

In all the discussions and research regarding this book, I have come across very little analysis. It's especially surprising for a book with such a strong following, but there aren't many explanations of why the book is supposed to be useful or important.

This lack of argument makes sense from a political standpoint, since there is no reason to analyze the worth of propaganda: its worth is that it agrees with society and indoctrinates readers. Analyzing it would defeat the purpose; political diatribes do not stand up to thoughtful attention.

Perhaps someday someone will create a thoughtful, textual analysis of this book that will point out its merits, its structure and its complexity. I've gradually come to doubt it. I never expected when I wrote my original review of this book that it would garner this much attention.

I still welcome comments and thoughts, but if your comment looks roughly like this:

"You should read this book again, but this time, like it more. You think you're smart but you aren't. You're mean. Lowry is great. This book won awards and kids like it. It's meant for kids anyways, why would you analyze what its about? I bet you never even read the sequels. Go read 'Moby Dick' because you are full of yourself."

I've heard that one before. If you do want to comment though, you might check out this article; I find it helps me with presenting my ideas.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 1993 – Finished Reading
May 26, 2007 – Shelved
May 26, 2007 – Shelved as: science-fiction
May 26, 2007 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
June 14, 2007 – Shelved as: childhood
January 29, 2008 – Shelved as: novel
June 9, 2009 – Shelved as: reviewed
September 4, 2010 – Shelved as: america

Comments Showing 1-50 of 979 (979 new)

message 1: by Sara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sara I thought that it was a good book, though it had a rather dissatisfying end.

message 2: by Megan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Megan I wouldn't call this book a failure. I thought it was rather good, actually, though it somewhat lifts a lot from Logan's Run. A ton of my students read it and they love it...it makes them think in ways they haven't thought of before, they tell me. I am just reporting what my sixth graders have said...I find it much better written, though not as imaginative as A Wrinkle in Time. I though that Gathering Blue, the companion to this book, was more of a failure, though an interesting one.

message 3: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely Well, I would say that this book fits into a lot of other Post New Age works which serve mostly to
support opinions already held instead of making any sort of challenge to worldview. This certainly does serve to invigorate children who desire to have their beliefs and philosophies affirmed.

There is a benefit in confidence in this, and it can provoke an internal dialogue, but unless the reader already has an internal understanding and ability to self-critique, nothing much can come of it except perhaps intellectual busywork.

I myself cannot take any kind of busywork and pointless affirmation of children is precisely the thing that is being blamed for the self-entitlement of my generation.

So I suppose my argument is that the author herself does not have enough philosophical or rhetorical knowledge to express new ideas, and instead relies on cheap allegory and metaphor to present an unfounded (and unoriginal) case.

Wrinkle in Time is a book of a higher class, most certainly, but sometimes falls to some of the same oversimplification.

message 4: by Kathleen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathleen I'm sorry, but as a teacher of literature and a deeply-read person myself, I find your arguments rather thin and ill-formed. I don't see that this book at all contributes to what you term "the self-entitlement of [your:] generation", and in general your responses seem rather bloated by...well, a couple different things, perhaps I'll just call it a pseudo-intellectual jargon. Actually, your response very similar to students who have strong intellects of one sort but lack a greater understanding of constructing a social fabric (and really just get their rocks off by arguing with the teacher). All stories have been told before, whether you realize it or not; the gift of a writer is in making the language beautiful and the story compelling, thereby perpetuating the kernels of human wisdom to be found, yes, even through those worthless allegories and metaphors you so disparage. Similarly, I fail to understand exactly what you mean by, "This certainly does serve to invigorate children who desire to have their beliefs and philosophies affirmed." How is this dam_ing? Don't all of us desire such things? E.g., the argument you persist in making reflects your desire to sustain the idea that you are above such trifling books and the intellectually inferior people who read them.

You know, I take it all back. If I read this purely for humor's sake, I find it incredibly entertaining. I apologize if what I've written is harsh, but like the 'hack' Lois Lowry, I persist in believing that words well-written may cause people to think, and so I continue to strive. I do suggest to you, however, learning to correctly employ a hyphen or two.

message 5: by Frederick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

Frederick God forbid Keely should express an opinion. God dam_!

message 6: by Kathleen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathleen Yeah, well, how insulting can Keely be to the children and adults who liked this novel? Lowry's prose is a lot better than Keely's, and it *is* very hard to make real sense of what Keely wrote (at least to what must be my feeble understanding). Sorry if my opinion was too harsh; I believed I was just taking issue with the details of what s/he said, explaining that to some readers (e.g., me) perhaps the words were a little obtuse.

message 7: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely To be fair, this is less my opinion than an analysis of the work, and hence quite open to critique. If only that's what I had received.

I'm not sure what I have done to become the outlet of your built-up literary vitriol, but I suppose that dealing with those maddening children with a 'strong intellect of some sort' has made me an obvious outlet. I suppose I was always the child who felt a need to question teachers; I did it throughout college, too. Often, I was right.

Of course, it is difficult to deal with teachers in this way, especially when they feel a need to set themselves above others which such meaningless epithets as 'deeply-read person'. I don't care what your opinion is as a 'teacher of literature' or 'deeply-read person'. The opinion of a Human Being is sufficient as long as it is well-supported. Of course, there is always the hypocrisy of setting yourself above someone else and then taking an anti-intellectual stance against them. One of these days, you may have to choose one or the other.

It's good to see that our teachers are still invigorated by the mocking, self-important fury and numerous ad hominem attacks that made my (and Syd Barrett's) youth so very exciting. From belittling me to artificially elevating yourself to making a grammatical attack, you have truly spared no pointless aside in trying to hurt me personally for expressing a text-referential argument about the artistic value of a book.

Beyond that, I really shouldn't respond, because you have not confronted me with any new evidence or refuted my points, but have merely restated them as if I am an idiot and you are knowledgeable. While this probably works very well with children, I'm afraid you'll find no such easy target with me. Of course, internet arguments against personal attacks are pointless to refute, but I suppose on the off chance that you thought you were being productive and never realized that you are, in fact, hurtful and irrational, I should point that out.

message 8: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely My argument, I feel, stands: Lowry's book is oversimplified and merely restates the points of works like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Brave New World, but without expanding upon them. Since she only makes general (and often vague) statements about meaning in her work, she does not promote thought. Instead, she merely reinforces what you already think, whatever that may be. We are all special. We are all human. The world is amazing. Life is precious. Freedom must be fought for. It is remarkable that she can chisel her story into the tombs of such dead tropes: one would think there would be no room left.

Of course, as you say, these 'kernels of human wisdom' are, in a sense, eternal. However, they are also self-evident in a post-existentialist culture; they are, in fact, the basis of that culture. She has taken the most obvious questions, posed them vaguely, and set them into a poorly-built world. Now, this is not the worst crime. One might accuse Shakespeare of a similar. However, Shakespeare really did use profundity and beautiful language (not to mention a pretty solid knowledge of psychology) to cast his works; and so, as you said, such works may succeed on other levels.

However, Lowry is never an author I would go to for a fine ear in prosody. Nor psychology. Nor Message. Nor would I particularly go to her at all, given this initial outing. I am sorry that you are upset in your life and that there is something in the way I speak or analyze which draws out your ire; but please recall, if you are responding to a review by attacking people and restating their statements as questions, you are probably not making a useful critique.

Just to be petty: 1. that is not an accepted use of an ellipsis (unless you are quoting yourself and leaving something out?) 2. 'e.g.' stands for the Latin 'exemplia gratia', which is for when you make an argument or point and then present a case which illustrates that point. 3. 'jargon' means field-specific terminology for oft-discussed topics, so if you are accusing me of being knowledgeable of literary terminology, I guess: thanks? 4. I used four hyphens in my review and three in my response. Correctly. Have you actually even read Lynne Truss's chapter on them, or did you only review that book for completeness? Hell, you gave it a 5, one would think you'd have paid some attention to it.

message 9: by Kathleen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathleen Actually, all my uses of ellipses were acceptable, since it is a question of style and usage; in a living and changing language, there are often usages accepted by some, not others. Of course e.g. is for an example, as in I am an example of a reader who found your language rather cudgel-like. (Oh! I see in the first one--I deleted something else, probably something insulting, so just overlook that one.) You must be right, I am completely irrational, or at least must have been. I abjectly apologise for all that has lead you to react so vehemently. But dude, it's a children's book, and children's themes are often simplified explorations of larger, more frightening issues. I just thought your critique was pompous and rather out of scale. Looking at all of this that you've written, I'll again add, hilarious. I'd just feel sorry for young people who read this and felt that you were calling them simple, that they were only capable of busywork, and that what ever affirmation of their beliefs they took from the story, it was worthless.

If this is really the tone of the website as a whole, I'm disappointed; I just don't feel that these sorts of silly diatribes are cool. Most of what you wrote in all of this mess is attacks on Lowry's intellect, attacks on the intellect of anyone who likes her work, and remarks attributing some desire for self-aggrandizement to my reply. Whatever. If you wrote things that were more pertinent and less insulting in your last chunk of text, I apologize for missing it; I really just couldn't read it all and skipped to the end. If you're smart, you did the same for mine.

message 10: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely I would not insult someone by skipping over part of a response they made to something of mine, because I might miss some important fact which might help me to learn something new. I also probably wouldn't make a response to someone when I hadn't read what they wrote; but rudeness knows no bounds.

I am of the belief that all literature be judged on the same scale. This goes doubly for children's literature, which I believe is much more difficult to write well than adult, and hence shouldn't be a haven for watered-down or over-simplifying authors. Children are more wonderful and capable than people give them credit for. I'm glad that someone who is charged with the process of educating them thinks mental expansion and learning is best achieved by things dismissed as 'dude, just a children's book'. Now I'm not sure if you like the thing or not.

My problem with Lowry has nothing to do with her intellect, but rather her writing. My critiques involve how she constructs stories and ideas. Of course, the witless rarely make for good books. I'm not sure why you think I would be deprecating the intellect of her readers; I certainly may be making some claims which may not be shared by them, but conflictive opinions are what make up the body of good discussion. If I'm not right, at least I have made my stance and invited others to come to present new information regarding.

Of course, this response isn't really for you, but for other readers who may happen to witness this discussion. I am sorry that you have not found this site to be the wellspring of affirmation that, in accordance with you, we all desire. I am sorry, but I prefer to be challenged and questioned rather than affirmed.

If you prefer the latter, then you may have a great deal of trouble in the area of literary criticism. Hopefully the responses to your forays will be well-thought and fully explained and not devolve into the sort of ad hominem troll-baiting which so dreadfully fills up internet forums.


message 11: by Kathleen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathleen last word? is this it? or this? who gets it?

message 12: by Kathleen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathleen Thank you for saying so many things that I was both too riled and too harried to say (or perhaps I was thinking too shallowly).

And thanks for mentioning the movie "Equilibrium," i'd not heard of it before. I'll check it out!

message 13: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:58AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely By what strange grace (or stranger fancy) has Sinon with Cassandra been mistaken?

message 14: by Zach (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zach Judkins wow. looks like you created a stir:). just wanted to say, 1 star? thats the worst rating you can give a book. I can understand you trying to even out all the,(as what you probably think) misleading 5 stars, but surely it deserves more than 1 star. its not rubbish.

message 15: by Lisa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Lisa wow, i applaud anyone that could slog through every word of most of those comments, and i read EVERY word of the lord of the rings trlogy, even all the songs.

i like the giver. i enjoyed reading several of lowry's other books too. i just like the way she writes. she is able to manipulate me into sentimentality. i am not an intellectual though.

message 16: by Sara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sara How can I stop getting 'new comment' ...okay, that's not how I want to say it. How can I unsubscribe from this book's review comments? I don't see anything that I can click on, and as I am no longer commenting, I just don't want to know about any new comments that have to do with this book. But I cannot seem to unsubscribe. Oh, wait....I just unclicked the 'add to my update feed'. Maybe that would do it. Okay, nevermind, this whole thing I just typed was completely unnecessary. I think.

message 17: by Megan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Megan I don't think it was because in order to get the remove from update feed, I think you have to post something. Or maybe not...but I can't seem to find another way to get rid of the emails, so I too am adding another unecessary comment. And I probably spelled unecessary wrong, too, because I can never spell it corretly. sorry.

message 18: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely I suppose I would try to post something about it in the Goodreads Feedback Group (http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/1...) or check if there may already be a thread about how to 'unsubscribe'.

I gave the book one star because I don't think it has any intrinsic worth. I am not trying specifically to enter a 'ratings battle' with those who love it, as that would be both pointless and petty. If The Giver were the only book, or even just an early book in the dystopian genre, then I might feel a need to give it a slight benefit of the doubt (as one might with Neuromancer or Robert Howard), but this book is entirely redundant and bears no aesthetic marks to forgive its transgressions.

It also staggers a thin line between the abstract and spiritual and the purely allegorical and didactic, which means even the message of the book cannot be trusted. Lowry is simply not a conscientious author, and any inspiration which derives from her, merely a happy accident.

I never imagined I'd be discussing The Giver as much as I have done, and I am sorry for subjecting you unwitting subscribers to yet another installation. Not that you'll be reading this far.

message 19: by Zach (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zach Judkins K. Thanks for the response. Just wanted to check and make sure you wanted to give it one star. A single item can look a thousand different ways depending on past experience, knowledge, and even how we feel at the moment. "See Spot Run" could be magic depending on the experience and attitude of the person reading it. For me, "The Giver" was a good, imaginative book. However, I appreciate and respect your opinion. Thank you.

message 20: by Dave (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dave I know that this comment page is probably already stale, but I had to step up and voice my opinion. Note that this assessment is coming from a person who was accually a child in the classroom when they read the novel. I'm not claiming to be an intellectual, heck i'm not even out of high school, i'm just letting out my feelings on the argument.

I have to agree with Keely in this debate. It would do me no good to elaborate on my conclusion, because keely has already stressed all of my points [and much, much more to that matter:]!

Beyond that though, I just didn't enjoy the novel. I didn't feel attached to any of the characters or scenes. It felt awkward trying to get past the terrible cliff hangar ending, past result led to sleepless nights, (note, this was a while back). What would be called the climax felt to me like just another dull section.

I personaly believe that in order to enjoy a book, you have to enjoy it...sounds funny, but this is a common problem in my generation of teens. They simply don't have an interest in reading. They would rather be off with friends, drinking booze, and playing video games. Whether it appears to be illiterate or not, I think that books these days need to begin appealing more to teens, or my generation, and those behind me will continue to be discusted by reading more and more as time goes on.

I'm not here to agrue my opinion, because quite frankly, i'm terrible at quarreling. I hope you don't brush off my comment, simply because of my age, but if you did, I wouldn't be offended. My generation is already looked down apon by a variety of different angles.

Sincerely, Dave.

message 21: by Sara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sara It happened again. I thought that I had unsubscribed from this topic/review, and then it sent me another message. AAAAAHHHH! This is so annoying. Not that your comments/arguments aren't interesting or anything.

message 22: by Dave (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dave Sorry, don't know much about this site yet, i'm still what gamers would call "a noob".

message 23: by Gabrielle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gabrielle Being a newbie here, I pressed on the "vote" button so that I could rate this review; unfortunately, I was unaware that by clicking on "vote" it would automatically enter as a "yes".

For the record, I meant to vote "no". To each his own, as far as opinions, but in my own - this particular review misses the point of the book entirely.

In particular, the idea that the book gives "simplistic answers" is the very antithesis of my experience of reading it. Rather, it prompts young minds to "QUESTION, QUESTION, QUESTION!" Which, imho, is what true "education" should be about.

message 24: by Grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace Thank you. Finally someone who actually agrees with me about this book.

message 25: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely Likewise.

Nice Epee. I fenced and competed through high school, but that was a while ago.

message 26: by Tara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tara I have read "The Giver" many many times, the first being in 5th grade. I've read it every 3 years or so since, each time having a different view of what is actually going on and the internal struggles that the characters must be going through.

To me, the book is vague and open ended because there are so many ways to look at the emerging story. The story reflects my own thoughts and fears and desires at that point in time and allows me to place them at the mercy of another character.

I deeply suggest to anyone who enjoyed "The Giver" and would like some closure to go on to read "Messenger".

message 27: by Tara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tara Click the vote button again and it takes it back. =)

J.G. Keely Thanks for the info. There are always people who are upset when they can't vote me down. Now I can ensure that all my votes are deserved and not the product of confusion.

I entirely agree with you about the book being able to support different interpretations depending on mood. However, I would contend that this is only because the book is entirely empty of all but the most cliche meanings. It is a cloying monomyth with a universally applicable new age philosophy.

The mystical savior with powers beyond the normal person's is an old story. The pseudo-spiritual journey through human experience is equally unoriginal. Indeed, even the 'controversial' ending is merely the same non-specific death event that has been repeated from Osiris to Bacchus to Jesus to Star Wars to Harry Potter.

Some critics might suggest there is no longer anything to be achieved by rewriting the monomyth. Lowry seems to agree; I don't.

Caitlín (Ink Mage) I just wanted to say (and maybe it's already been said) that if you read Gathering Blue and Messenger, you may think differently about the ending.

Elizabeth I feel that those who think it is simplistic are those who do not understand it. It's like saying that Hemingway's classic "Old man and the Sea" is didactic and simplistic. Take a closer look, my good man, and you will see the beauty of a book that encourages deep thinking in our youth!

message 31: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David In response to Ink Mage, all the sequels add to this text is the worst possible conclusion--that indeed, our magical, fated hero actually found a sled and sailed it down to meet the music. "Closure" does not mean obviousness. The book has plenty of closure, provided the Author leaves well enough alone and has the graciousness to let the boy die.

Elizabeth, Hemingway was and is renounced for writing long pages and paring them down to a few sentences. Density and depth were so painstakingly constructed that between each word is a novel, or in fact *the* novel. The Giver is not built that way. It's built without mortar, on top of a world that doesn't really work. Like Keely said above, what this book feeds in our youth is flavorless consumption. They feel like they're thinking, much like someone who eats Kraft Macaroni and Cheese thinks they're eating. It's up to adults to casually suggest that real food, or challenging literature that doesn't just encourage deep thinking, but demands it, is eaten. Even if it means forcing them to sit at the table until it's done.

Sarah While the book is no literary masterpiece, I think the topic/ idea of a utopian society and what is required to have such is a topic that adolescents should be exposed to. I read it as a middle schooler, and always had the plot in the back of my mind. As an adult now, I've finally read Anthem, by Ayn Rand, and the general idea seems to be the same; it's something to give thought to - what kind of society are WE creating? What will the choices we make today creat for the future? If anything, the story is thought-provoking, something we should be encouraging young and old readers alike, to engage in.

message 33: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Bigney while i agree to some extent, i can only wonder whether you have children. yes, the read has become flatter with time, but it is not quite as flat as what you seem to think. children also deserve to be children--without the need to take on the complexity of adult constipation...imo the books isn't great, but it's not that bad either.

message 34: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Bigney again, i can only imagine that you have no children, or that you understand them very little. sorry.

J.G. Keely I tend to give children more credit than that. I think a book can provoke understanding and thought in a child without giving them oversimplified answers or outright falsification. Trying to protect someone from themselves or from the world is always doomed to failure. People have to figure things out on their own.

It is true that for children, we can help them grow more and more with each challenge, instead of throwing everything at them all at once. However, to teach them something incorrect means that their progression must be a constant process of teaching then unteaching, which creates mistrust and confusion.

White lies are only coverups for much grander lies, and in the end, they rob someone of their ability to make a decision. If we are to coddle children, to let them be naive and 'innocent', then we must ask where and when this is allowed to stop, because creating a protective and coddling world around them will only weaken them, in the end.

There will be a point when this protection fails, and if they have been lead to believe that everything is simple, then the complexity render them fearful and incapable.

I think that, for many parents, it is their own fear of the world which causes them to hobble their own children in the way, and that in their idealism of a better world, fail to prepare their children for any confrontation with reality.

Perhaps that is why our children grow into avoidant adults who cannot manage their own lives or money, who detest any sort of work, and who break down at the thought of the future or economy.

The less we teach children about sex, the more likely they are to have STDs and become pregnant. The more we simplify these things, the less capable our children will be when they eventually run into them. It would be nice if we could introduce them bit by bit to the world, but we can never know when and how they will encounter it, so better to prepare them as we can and let them live their own lives. We will not always be there to live those lives for them, nor should we.

Skylar Burris I haven't read this book, so I don't know if I agree with your analysis of it, but I do agree with your GENERAL thesis here (which caught my eye on my update page) that modern children's literature lacks complexity and subtlety and that this shows a sort of condescencion towards children and their ability to think. It also, I fear, will make it harder for them to learn to think critically over time.

I never realized quite how didactic modern literature was until I had a daughter and began reading to her. Even some older books I loved as a child now appear to me in a different lens; some of Dr. Seuss's books are decidedly polemical (but they have the virtue, at least, of being literary).

On the other hand, another part of me recognizes that there is a difference between children and adults, and, at a young age, we do need, to some degree, to feed on sweeping concepts of black and white; to grapple with our world in those simplistic terms, for a time. So I am somewhat torn on the questions as a parent. Yet, the old literature, even if it had a great deal of black and white, rarely had EASY answers (I am thinking especially of the fairy tales here, that dealt with evil people who did not suddenly recognize the error of their ways and become good by the third act). Even reading my daughter the old Bible stories, I realize how often UN-moralistic they really are--they are so often accounts without commentary. The commentary is an addition, not inherent in the text, which itself provide no easy answers but evokes emotion and thought.

I am by no means opposed to literature with morals, but there is so much modern literature that presents morality as no challenge to either discern or maintain. So much of what I pick up at the library has EVERYone learning their clear lesson by the last page. Even the thieves become friends if you just share with them! I do think we often give children less credit than they deserve for being able to process complex themes and deal with murky issues. Madelin L'Engle said this, having been turned down repeatedly by publishers who said her books were too "hard" for children to understand.

I do find my own young daughter usually tends to be most fascinated with the books and stories that have either complex language (for her age), artistic beauty, or, often, darker, not fully resolved themes, though I've read plenty of junk to her too, just because she liked the characters, and I figure I should fuel her love for reading by not denying her when she asks. But the murky stuff does seem to grab her more than I ever expected at this age. Why I didn't expect it, I don't know: I know it grabbed me when I was as a child. I can't recall how many times I wanted to hear the story of Prometheus having his liver repeatedly torn out while chained to that rock.

We don't talk and read to children the same way past generations did; we are too afraid of wounding their little psyches, it seems.

message 37: by Jim (last edited Jun 15, 2008 10:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Keely is a naughty boy.

(one of those Creative Anachronism guys - from his pic?)

Keely is smart, or at least clever, one of those capable of disrupting an engaged class (if he puts his mind to it). He chose to disrupt this little classroom.

His posts stink of Troll - the internet variety:

TROLL (INTERNET) - from Wikipedia


An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Most TROLLs are more obvious than K, and trolls are best ignored. Still - I'll nibble on his bait, chew on a bit, and spit it out.

He calls The Giver "didactic" (?). This struck me as not really understanding the word. I though maybe *I* don't understand the word so I did some checking. Nope, K needs to go back to school and pay better attention.

Here's a typical definition:

DIDACTIC - from Britannica

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/t... %20Encyclopedia

of literature or other art, intended to convey instruction and information.
The word is often used to refer to texts that are overburdened with
instructive or factual matter to the exclusion of graceful and pleasing
detail so that they are pompously dull and erudite.
Some literature, however, is both entertaining and consciously didactic,
as, for example, proverbs and gnomic poetry.
The word is from the Greek didaktikós, “apt at teaching.”

K then tosses off a reference to Disney films (?) - old and new (??), and fails to tie-in why Disney is relevant to Lowry - except by a vague, idealistic statement about educating children.

He generally makes provocative statements without support - as pointed out by Kathleen. He then replies with more provocation and little if any reference to the book - classic Troll tactics.

K goes on:

"The Giver also shows a gross misunderstanding of society,
culture, and psychology that is a sad failing in any book,
let alone a didactic dystopian one. The world-building is
inconsistent and flawed, and the character
progression plodding."

This got me interested, and wanted to know how this is true of the book. Sorry, trolls don’t support their statements, they just make them.

He used that Didactic word again - tied to Dystopian.

I'm glad to see that he recognizes that Lowry paints a dystopian picture in The Giver.

The troll is not so clever after all - he does not see that she paints a picture of *another* society - not "society, culture, and psychology" in general:

"The Giver also shows a
gross misunderstanding of
society, culture, and psychology"

In message 3, K writes:

"Well, I would say that this book fits
into a lot of other Post New Age works
which serve mostly to support opinions
already held instead of making
any sort of challenge to worldview.
This certainly does serve to invigorate
children who desire to have
their beliefs and philosophies affirmed."

I did not know what "Post New age" meant so more checking. Again K swings and misses - see definition below.

Our fresh-faced critic deigns to tell us that children "desire to have their beliefs and philosophies affirmed."

My own kids (at 11 and 13) are more sophisticated that I was at that age, but they did not get exposed to dystopia's until The Giver and Animal Farm. Again, his slap shot flies into the stands.

Let's look at one more of K's statements *emphasis mine*:

"So I suppose my *argument* is
that the author herself does not
have enough philosophical or
*rhetorical knowledge* to
express new ideas, and instead
relies on cheap allegory and metaphor
to present an *unfounded (and unoriginal) case*."

*unfounded ... case" - This is the Pot calling the Kettle black. Funny to make an unfounded case to assert the same thing of a juvenile novel.

(by the way, K never seems to get that The Giver is juvenile fiction)

*rhetorical knowledge* - Huh? - rhetoric is about persuasion - not knowlege per se. Keely should go back to school, take some philosophy classes, and shut up. And listen.

*argument* - also funny, because, a series of assertions, without backup, is not agrumentation, it's just:


'nuff said.

Definition follows:

POST NEW AGE - from Britannica


Post-New Age
By the end of the 1980s, the New Age movement had lost its momentum. Although primarily a religious movement, it was derided for its acceptance of unscientific ideas and practices (especially its advocacy of crystals and channeling). Then Spangler, Los Angeles publisher Jeremy Tarcher, and the editors of several leading New Age periodicals announced that although they still adhered to the goals of personal transformation, they no longer believed in the coming New Age. By the mid-1990s, it was evident that the movement was dying, and New Agers in Europe began to speak of the move from “New Age to Next Stage.”

The New Age movement proved to be one of the West’s most significant religious phenomena of the 20th century ....Three to five million Americans identified themselves as New Agers or as accepting the beliefs and practices of the New Age movement in the late 1980s. The continuing presence of New Age thought in the post-New Age era is evident in the number of New Age bookstores, periodicals, and organizations that continued to be found in nearly every urban centre.

J.G. Keely Trolling is a pointless and joyless endeavor. I have not come to disrupt any classroom, and you may do well to recall that I did not impose myself upon you, but that you have come to impose yourself over my expression. No one made you read my review.

I'm not an anachronist, either, that is a picture from a little acting endeavor of mine, for whatever that is supposed to reflect on me.

Didactism has to do with teaching and instructing. The commonly recognized sense of this word is the one you pointed out, but there is a further pejorative extension that one might recognize from any teacher who is more interested in indoctrination than mutual learning.

This is the sense I evoke for 'The Giver'. It is a book that is meant to pass on a set of beliefs to the reader, instead of provoking questions, it tries to implement answers. You can look at the definition you offered: "texts that are overburdened with instructive . . . matter to the exclusion of graceful and pleasing detail". This is my meaning precisely.

As to the misunderstanding of psychology and society in the creation of her work, this is something that I have read in other critiques while preparing my short review. I meant merely to indicate my agreement with their assessments, and confident to let the discourse stand on its own, did not feel a need for an exhaustive recreation of such critiques. A little research into the criticism of this book would provide for anyone, as it did for me, the points about Lowry's world building, characterization, and simplicity.

The New Age movement comes from the attempt to combine cultural 'truths' but can eventually dilute them to the point beyond which they have no meaning. From Frazer and Castaneda to Campbell's monomyth (which the Giver is another biolerplate remake of) one can see how this reduction of meaning is in play in The Giver.

This is especially strong in the 'Post New Age' era, where an attempt to provide some whole human meaning to our spiritual ideals while removing the cultural origins behind them has resulted in a view which claims to be holistic, but which can only continue this claim in that it has no foundation in any rational or social process from which to be refuted.

'Rhetorical' also means 'theoretical', such as in 'rhetorical question'.

Many authors use the argument of writing 'juvenile fiction' in order to pass of what is better called 'bad fiction'. Children do not profit from oversimplification of ideas, nor do they need to be protected from the world.

Any parent who thinks they can protect their child from the world will find that they have only crippled the child. Hiding, lying, and oversimplifying is not something an adult does to keep a child safe, that is merely their excuse. Adults do this to children because the it is the adult who is afraid and uncomfortable with the world. It is easy to get to this place when we grow too comfortable with routine and forget what it is to be a child.

I appreciate the time you put into this response, but I might suggest your tone is a bit baiting. You call me names, attack my use of language, and then declare me wrong. I am more than willing to agree that my estimation of The Giver is not a formulated text-based critique building from points to an eventual conclusion. It works more as an opinion piece in communication with various other critiques of the work. However, your argument proves no stronger, nor has it any more textual basis than mine.

Here's a helpful little article on classifications of rational argument that may prove useful in the future: http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html.

You may also want to ask yourself next time whether it is reasonable to critique someone if you have to look up their main points in the dictionary.

message 39: by Jim (last edited Jul 13, 2008 12:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I carefully read Keeley's latest post (#39).

I also re-read my post (#38), and found it to be considerably less polite than my usual style.

I checked out some of Keeley's other posts to this site - and shared one with a fellow who is better read than most of us - who found it to be pretty much on the money.

So, I no longer think he is a "naughty boy", nor a troll.

He *is* somewhat disingenuous when he says:

“I did not impose myself upon you, but that you have come to impose yourself over my expression. No one made you read my review.”

Disingenuous because, when one urinates on an important, award winning work (like The Giver) big boys and big girls like Keeley, me, and the teachers who regularly teach this work (bless all of them) should expect disapprobation in reaction to provocative dissent.

Surely Keeley understands that to call the Giver “a general failure… (a) didactic and poorly-constructed work (which gives) simplistic answers” (Para #1, Post #1), is an “imposition” as well as provocative.

He also commented:

“I have always believed that work should challenge and inform children, not give them simplistic answers. When we treat children as if they are incapable of processing the complex, we fail to give them the tools they need to process our own complex world.” (para 1)


“The Giver also shows a gross misunderstanding of society, culture, and psychology that is a sad failing in any book, let alone a didactic dystopian one. The world-building is inconsistent and flawed, and the character progression plodding.” (para 3)

As a short novel intended for tender young minds, The Giver will necessarily be limited as to setting and character development. “Simplistic” is also an important (even necessary) attribute for a juvenile short novel. A child should crawl before she walks or runs. Except for the rare child (surely, Keeley was one of them), children in general should be regarded as “incapable of processing the complex”. Some (like Keeley) will later move on to the complex.

Cutting to the chase:

To judge a juvenile by standards applicable to adult fiction is to miss the boat.

It is interesting to see wildly differing reactions to many of the important books listed on this site. I suspect that Keeley and I came to this book from wildly different directions.

At the risk of further offending him, I will hazard a guess that Keeley and I came to the book from different ends of the Individual-Collective political axis.

My Take: Lowry is telling kids that taking the collective too far is dangerous. She was born in 1937 and remembers (as did Orwell) the Soviets (may they rot in hell), and the eugenics campaigns in Nazi Germany (may they burn in hell), and the former less kind-and-gentle version of Communist China (in 1957-58 Mao Tse Tung exacerbated a famine which slowly killed 20-30 million Chinese).

Before any of us forget, extreme collectivism leads to extreme and perverse murder:

1) Lenin, Stalin, et. al. – Soviet Union – 1917-1991 – 30-million+ citizens murdered
2) Mao – Red China – 1940’s – present - 20-million+ starved, millions murdered
3) Hitler – Nazi Germany – 1933-145 – 12-million+ citizens and non-Germans murdered

I gather that Lowry cautions that it may happen that we will passively let our children be taken away, raised by the State, and that infanticide will become part of the landscape.

With regard to his (mis)use of the word “didactic” Keeley wrote (post #39):

“Didactism has to do with teaching and instructing. The commonly recognized sense of this word is the one you pointed out, but there is a further pejorative extension that one might recognize from any teacher who is more interested in indoctrination than mutual learning.

This is the sense I evoke for 'The Giver'. It is a book that is meant to pass on a set of beliefs to the reader, instead of provoking questions, it tries to implement answers. You can look at the definition you offered: "texts that are overburdened with instructive . . . matter to the exclusion of graceful and pleasing detail".

To which I ask:

When it comes to forcibly separating children from their parents and infanticide – what sort of “graceful and pleasing detail" is suitable to those of Keeley’s ilk?

(I passing, I would add that “mutual learning” is a nice concept – but not practical in a classroom setting – unless it is limited. 99% Adult-teacher to juvenile-student. 1% the other direction.)

I’m still not sure why Keeley thinks Lowry is a didact in the “pejorative” sense. Perhaps he thinks that one should NOT speak/indoctrinate against state-rearing of children that are not killed while infants?

Or maybe he thinks that the act of writing involves “mutual learning”?

I suggest that Lowry DOES “provoke questions” (in addition to state-rearing-of-children and infancticide). For instance”

Q1: “Why would parents passively let their children be taken away?”
A1: (not explicit – but maybe because they and others in this society are *themselves indoctrinated*)

Q2: Is indoctrination to near absolute passivity a good thing?
A2: (No.)


A2 revised: (HELL NO)

You get the idea – or if not go read the book.

I like these answers by the way – as one coming firmly from the individualist side of the Individual-Collective political axis.

More from Keeley – post #39:

“You call me names, attack my use of language, and then declare me wrong.”

I DID call him names (see my post - #38)

“one of those Creative Anachronism guys - from his pic?”
“Keely is a naughty boy.”
“His posts stink of Troll - the internet variety”
“fresh-faced critic” (a reference to Keeley’s youth)

I regret going to that level. Sorry. I still think fresh faced works, though, because Keeley IS young, and expounds child-rearing and educating theories (still makes me laugh a bit).

As to Creative Anachronism – the only place I saw a getup like that was at one of those Creative Anachronism Faire’s.

Sorry. Perhaps his “little acting endeavor” was Shakespeare?

Yet more from Keeley – post #39:

“I am more than willing to agree that my estimation of The Giver is not a formulated text-based critique building from points to an eventual conclusion. It works more as an opinion piece in communication with various other critiques of the work. However, your argument proves no stronger, nor has it any more textual basis than mine.”

I am unaware of “various other critiques” – some of which (I hope) are “formulated” and “text-based”. I’d like to see critiques of “The Giver” which are honest and that actually quote liberally from the novel. Balanced critiques would be good too - but not necessary.

If Keeley would post these, then I’d more than interested in reading them.

Readers will note that I did not formulate a text-based critique, either. But I suggest that burden should be on the naysayers.

J.G. Keely Curious how you always refer to me in the third person. This tendancy could come off as somewhat insulting, in the same way as it is rude to talk about someone else who is in the room. Perhaps you mean to appeal to some imagined coterie of supporters, lending you a sort of royal 'we' to an implied readership.

I'd like to congratulate you for so quickly acceeding to Godwin's Law and introducing a reductio ad hitlerum to this discussion. I could invoke the corollary at this point and declare that due to the hyperbolous and fallacious nature of this argumentation that the entire discussion has become moot, but perhaps further discourse would provide some elucidation to my own imaginary coterie.

You introduce an example of 'ends justifying the means' with this statement:

"Perhaps he thinks that one should NOT speak/indoctrinate against state-rearing of children that are not killed while infants?"

I would agree that I fundamentally do not think one should indoctrinate this, or any other political opinion, especially in children. If there is a good and rational reason that infanticide or creche education is socially harmful, then teach by giving and explaining that reason, not by indoctrination of opinions without an argument behind them.

If you think that indoctrination without reason is beneficial to children to somehow 'save them from themselves', then you would certainly enjoy the didactic methods of this book, but I'm sure an ardent individualist like you wouldn't enjoy such base tactics against an unformed mind.

It also makes sense that you would attack me for my youth, and imagine that it would be a black mark against me, just as you imagine most children incapable of complex thought. It has been my experience that the earlier you introduce complexity to children, the more quickly they grasp it.

Children can be taught binary code, foreign languages, calculus, and the sciences before puberty; or they can read the complete works of Aristophanes in the original Greek (Mill did). What always strikes me about the most interesting people I have met is not that they are not different in faculty from the average person as much as they are different in experience.

Let a child read The Iliad at eight, like my friend Yevginiy, and he will find an understanding with it, and a series of insights all his own. He would not be able to recognize certain historical events or mythological allusions, but this will not prevent him from gleaning something. I would suggest a child can learn more from a complex work than from an oversimplified one.

If you put a child in a room with a single coin, he will certainly find it. If you put him in a maze of treasures, he may not find them all, but he will certainly profit more than a coin's worth.

This wealth of possibility strikes the fear in many adults: that a child might learn something powerful and the adult begin to lose control of them. Training a child to accept the simple and to remain under the moral control of an authority only serves to weaken them and prevent them from seeking their own path. Again, a collectivist goal.

There are works which engage children on this level, and which continue to engage us as adults, because the hubris of imagining ourselves somehow more insightful or more reasonable as adults than as children is already the death of our own joy in discovery. I have met the insightful and brilliant at every age, from six to sixty.

As for the doltish, they seem to exist only after a certain age: one must first kill the desire to learn and explore in a child. Is it not curious that we may learn from zero to twenty all the things necessary to live in this world: language, social skills, vocation, kinetics; but that there is much less difference between twenty and forty?
Indeed, scientists, artists, and musicians have created some of the greatest works of history in these early years and never surpassed them even after living fourfold again as long.

Of course, it would be silly for me to suggest that my age now somehow set me above any child or elder. It would be silly for anyone with a strong belief in individuality to be colored by such a prejudiced view of the possibility of others.

I know that Yevginiy's parents were somewhat aghast at finding him reading such a work at his young age, but such reasoning about 'protecting children from the world' has always rung hollow to me.

To never let children experience violence or sexuality in literature does nothing to protect them from it, any more than refusing to teach a child math would protect him from taxation as an adult. This would do more to harm the child than help them, as their lack of even theoretical knowledge would prevent them from being able to make an informed decision.

I know you agree (with an emphatic 'HELL YES') with my assertion that indoctrinating uninformed passivity is not beneficial to the individual.
Of course, collectivism is based upon depriving people of information, such that they be hobbled and unable to guide their own lives.

Is it not fallacious to think that just because you oppose some collective ignorance that it saves you from being victim to another? As Bob Dylan wrote: "fearing not I'd become my enemy in the instant that I preached".

Blaming collectivist social policies for genocidal cultural tendancies does not seem to me to be a supportable argument. Not only were the Nazis opposed to Communism at all costs, but there were many other genocides perpetrated in Africa and Asia which were not the result of collective living. (One can also look at the many political and economic similarities between the Nazis and America during the global depression: http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0703a.asp).

Nor, beyond Nazi eugenics, am I aware of instances of infanticide in collectivist states, so bringing that in seems merely to be sensationalist hyperbole.

J.G. Keely One might do better to approach genocide politically instead of economically. One must recall that Communism or Socialism are merely economic and not political systems. In each of the genocidal states, we can see that the political system was not collective (as Democracy is), but fascist, and that like all fascists, they retained their power through a combination of fear and constituent power base.

Genocide becomes a tactic for these regimes on both counts: that they destroy those outside their constituency as scapegoats and redistribute wealth under the guise or economic gain, and that they create fear and control by murder.

We do not find instances of genocide or infanticide amongst other socialist states in northern Europe, Canada, or South America (the South American instances of genocide being, in fact, enacted against the socialized government by the U.S.).

I personally have no allegiance either for or against collective political structures, as they have both benefits and drawbacks.

Of course, all the Red Scare nonsense was just another fascist power-grubbing tactic in and of itself, just as the current terrorism scare is, though it is interesting that the one is condeming collectivism, and the other a savage individualism. Every faceless enemy is as good as the one before it, it seems.

I agree with you whole-heartedly that "To judge a juvenile by standards applicable to adult fiction is to miss the boat." Books for juveniles are much more difficult to write than books for adults.

Adults are already stuck in their patterns, so continuing that requires no new ideas or thoughts, just a comforting re-hashing of the old. To write for children, however, requires a true depth of understanding of your subject, as children will not fill in the gaps for you, but will instead question them incessantly.

As Einstein said: "If you can't explain it simply, then you don't understand it well enough." The problem with Lowry is that she doesn't understand political, economic, or psychological structures well enough to create a story realistic enough to build meaning. Instead, she substitutes some opinions for points, rehashes old literary themes of better sci fi authors, and leaves us to fill in the gaps.

This works very well for a lot of teachers, as they don't care as much about thinking or working through a problem as they do about memorization and regurgitation.

It reminds me of a story about Feynman where he began to teach his daughter easier ways to figure out her math problems, and she was then failed by her math teacher on the next test. Feynman went in to talk to the teacher, who didn't recognize the Nobel Laureate and developer of Quantum Physics, and accused Feynman of being a meddler who knew nothing about mathematics.

I wish this were not the usual case, but with every prodigy I know, they have found conflict with teachers. Teachers tend to indoctrinate rote for the average student, ignore but socially promote the lesser student, and bully the better student.

They do not mean to do this, nor are they 'cruel' or 'evil', but they must operate under a beaurocratic system where the power and money are held by the administrators and the quality is judged by the monopolistic testing companies (Here's a good article on the lamentable state: http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html).

Unfortunately, in taking a second look, there is not a lot of literary criticism about The Giver. It seems that, much like myself, most critics did not find the giver an important enough book to analyze, either positively or negatively. Then again, if people keep haranguing me, then I suppose it might be more worthwhile to wade through the shit than have people keep throwing it at me. We'll see.

If you look at the wikitalk page for the book, you'll see the lack of serious criticism is mentioned, in addition to my own experience. Of course, you don't care much about supporting your case, either, but why should you when you'd much prefer that I prove a negative (a rhetorical impossibility)?

Here are the few, bare (negative) reviews I did find. Hopefully they will provide an idea of the critical impression I was originally responding to:


message 42: by Teri (new) - rated it 5 stars

Teri Hall If you really think that "We are all special. We are all human. The world is amazing. Life is precious. Freedom must be fought for" are, in fact, the basis of our culture, you live in your own poorly-built world of fantasy.

Lowry invites you to think. If your response to that invitation is to stop thinking after you have reached the end of your usual flattened path, that would seem to be more about you than the author..

J.G. Keely I don't particularly think any of those things, nor did I indicate that those were my beliefs in my review or summary responses, so I'm not sure why you would assign them to me. Though, I am pretty sure that we are all human, as internet-savvy apes are still a few years off.

Everyone being special negates the meaning of 'special'. The world is as dull or amazing as you make it. Life is usually most precious to the person living it. Freedom must only be fought for if you want it more than you want to be protected and controlled.

I do not believe in the sort of idealistic thought-terminating cliches you unsupportedly attribute to me, though they are common ways for people to avoid critical thinking, especially in this culture. One could say that they are the basis of our culture because without these comforting oversimplifications, it is difficult to imagine how our workaday oligarchy could operate at all.

I did not stop thinking when I reached the end of Lowry's book. On the contrary, I thought to myself: "here is an author who has rehashed old concepts together without adding anything new and has ended up with a book about as revolutionary as a Mcdonald's commercial".

Hence the review.

message 44: by Lasairfiona (last edited Aug 10, 2008 05:27PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lasairfiona Smith Seriously, don't give the kids the watered down rehash aimed at an age group that should have long ago started to read at a higher level, give them the original classics that started people thinking about dystopian and other concepts in the first place.

Also, I am disappointed that I had to teach the Firefox spell check the word dystopian.

message 45: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Wow... I just finished the book and found this year-long "heated" thread! It occurred to me that it is sort of a complement to an author to receive this much debate about a book. If the story were truly "simplistic", would it be given this degree of scrutiny?

J.G. Keely Actually, most of the debate has centered on the fact that there has been very little scrutiny leveled at this book. The apologists have maintained that the book 'makes children think', but have not been able to demonstrate much supported arguement.

The skeptics have generally pointed at the similarities with other books, the strict adherence to the 'monomyth', and the unrealistic social and political setup; all these critiques mean to indicate a lack of originality and depth.

However, despite the strong love of some for the book, no textual support has come forward to meet those critiques. As for the skeptics, they all seem to have other things to do than read this book a second time.

If length and vehemence of internet discourse indicates relative worth, then the debate between 98 degrees and N*sync would certainly overpower Ulysses vs. Moby Dick, and Hamlet pale before Harry Potter.

message 47: by Tim (new)

Tim I read this to my fifth grade class, and every year, it is chosen as the class favorite. It won the Newbery for best book of children's literature the year it came out. Many see something that you do not. You should dig deeper in this "simple" book.

J.G. Keely Ah, I didn't realize that populism and awards politics were the road to education. All this time I've been seeking out little-known and experimental works when I should have been pursuing the edification of my mind by reading the popular 'The Da Vinci Code' and watching the award-winning 'Titanic'.

Here I had assumed that children often got entranced by repetitive, formulaic stories and self-justifying morals, but perhaps it wasn't children who championed the popularity of the ninja turtles, power rangers, pokemon, and Hannah Montana (or perhaps those are the great thought-provoking masterpieces of our time?).

Many people do enjoy this book, and connect themselves to it. This should not really surprise me, as many never outgrow their love for the formulaic and self-justifying. Romance novels and endlessly repetitive fantasy series remain popular amongst many adults (composing the bulk of what is read by any adults, period).

The political ideals in The Giver are popular ones and of course baby-boomers would want to foist this 'singular snowflake', anti-socialization rhetoric on the next generation (despite the way the current political and economic system completely undermine those nationalistic ideals).

I wish there were something deeper in this book to latch onto, but as those people who most appreciate it point out, it is an oversimplified and dumbed-down version of other books, and Lowry was never a competent enough author to maintain such complicated political philosophies after boiling them down to such an inchoate state.

Though there is a following behind this book, few of those followers have even tried to express what any of these much-belabored deeper meanings are supposed to be, instead merely stating over and over how important it is and how I should reconsider its merit.

I have seen nothing of careful,thoughtful, skeptical analyses of this book or its worth, only a great deal of the self-righteous anger of the believer, ever demanding that I experience a revelation forthwith (and in their own preferred form, of course).

message 49: by Tim (new)

Tim Your last paragraph in message 49 totally sums up your entire message board about The Giver, and your perspective.

As an adult, certainly there are other books, written with an adult audience in mind, that fulfill your desire for something deeper.

You are choosing to criticize a book written for older children. For this particular audience, it is a wonderful book. Kids reading this for the first time encounter some ideas that are completely new to them. They examine issues which they never have examined before. It makes them think, and that is what makes this a special book.

Your attack on popular fiction or popular entertainment is silly and unnecessary. Obviously, something that is popular doesn't make it great.

Your failure to recognize this for what it is, AND your attacks on people who appreciate it have created an interesting message board.

It seems that your responses are a bit more "self-righteous" than that of your other posters.

A revelation from you is unnecessary.

message 50: by J.G. Keely (last edited Dec 03, 2010 09:18AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely "A revelation from you is unnecessary"

It's frightening and saddening that this is the sentiment we get from someone who is meant to be a teacher, especially of children.

If I'm so mistaken about the worth of the Giver, then educate me. Tell me its value, contradict my arguments and provide your own.

I attacked populism as a guide for the educational value of books because you brought it up as a defense of the book. It also surprises me that you fall in with an award committee like the Newberry.

Every teacher knows that a cutthroat and politically-minded bureaucracy does little to aid in the education process, because every teacher must suffer the whims of such a bureaucracy simply to maintain their job. Why trust such a political bureaucracy to choose your books for you?

If your only arguments are that the book is popular and award-winning, then you have added nothing to further this discussion; you admit yourself that popularity is not a viable indicator of value.

I was raised by educators, and I know that the job of a teacher is a thankless one. The administrators and (ever-changing) curriculum legislation make it even more difficult, but I still find it somewhat frightening how poorly and one-sidedly the educators in this thread present their opinions as facts.

I'm not one of your students and I'm not going to accept your opinions as authority. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to earn it; yet you attack me for being self-righteous.

The rest of this post was a response to a comment that has since been deleted.

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