The Giver Series: Learning from Fictional Societies

The GiverThank you to Milka for recommending The Giver series by Lois Lowry. I enjoyed The Giver so much that I launched into the next three: Gathering BlueMessenger, and Son. All four young adult novels are short, easy reads so they’re great for those of us most likely to fall behind on reading challenges.

Different communities are described in each book and it’s fun to compare them with each other, and then with our own society. The Giver shows a futuristic society that at first seems perfect. There are no wars. There’s no such thing as pollution, poverty, or hunger. Everyone rides bicycles to get anywhere within the community and there’s never any reason to leave.

But the characters never make any choices, which leads to having no real emotions, including love. A council decides everything: a person’s future career, spouse, children, meals. Individualism is discouraged. They think they’re content, but they’ve never known anything else.

Gathering Blue is then a surprise because the community is completely different. It’s a rougher place, with people living in huts and squabbling over territory. People act more on instinct or their own desires. They occupy themselves mostly with finding food through farming or hunting, though there is never enough food. Possibly because of this, they think nothing of ostracizing those with physical deformities, leaving them to die.

Messenger shows another, more balanced society. This one is based on welcoming outsiders, people who had to escape other places. Everyone finds a way to contribute to the community and it feels more like a family.

Then someone called the Trademaster appears. He has things people have never seen before, materialistic things, and they begin to trade the best part of themselves for those things. Materialism makes them more individualistic and they begin to worry that, with all the outsiders coming in, there won’t be enough resources for everyone. They vote to build a wall around the community. Outsiders are turned away. They don’t notice the connection between the Trademaster and the changes in their society.

Son ties everything up, with characters appearing from all three books like long lost friends. My favorites were The Giver and Messenger, mostly because of the unique communities but also because I loved Matty, the main character in Messenger.

Speaking of communities, I’m thankful for the friends I’ve found here. Milka (who recommended these books to me) has two great blogs: Perfecting Motherhood, a humorous look at parenthood with reviews of adult and children’s books, and a nature photography site where she finds beauty everywhere.

What do you think a perfect community would be like? Can we learn from fictional societies like these?

28 thoughts on “The Giver Series: Learning from Fictional Societies

  1. “There are no wars. There’s no such thing as pollution, poverty, or hunger.”—Wouldn’t that be nice? Sounds about as perfect as you can get!

    • Yes! That would be great. Then the book gets really interesting when it shows there’s a price to pay for all that. Still though, I might be willing to pay that price. 🙂

    • You’d have to see the way they live though, as they don’t know any better. They take pills so they feel no emotions of any kind (but they don’t know what emotions are). They have no idea about their history and whatever happened before their time. They don’t see the world in color (again, no emotions). Lois Lowry is a brilliant writer who depicts a futuristic world that seems perfect in appearance, until something happens to make one character question everything. It definitely is one of my most favorite books now.

  2. I liked the Giver when I read it. And Milka has had me curious about the others after it. Now with your blog post, I’m going to have to just get online tonight and reserve them at my library. They sound good.

    • They really are great, especially when they’re read together because older characters keep popping up and that’s always fun. If you liked the Giver, you’ll probably really like Son because that’s more of a sequel than the other two, but it probably helps to read them all in order too.

  3. I love reading about other societies which often bring out more of ourselves as we connect with the book. I will have to check these out. Thanks!

    • Me too – it’s one of the things I love about reading – just for the chance to learn about different cultures or people. Even though these are fictional societies, we can still learn a lot from them.

    • That’s great – I’m sure you’ll love the others then too. Some people were a little disappointed in the second one (Gathering Blue) because it shows a different community and characters, but it was interesting to see all the differences in the two communities. Son is more of a sequel and revisits the first community but I think I ended up enjoying the second and third books more just because of the characters.

  4. I’m SO glad you liked the books and read the whole series one after the other. They really are a fast read but can touch you in so many ways. I’m waiting for Son to come out on paperback and then I’ll buy the whole quartet for my bookcase. I’ll definitely want to read them again and have my kids read them.

    If you need to catch up on your reading challenge at some point, try The One and Only Ivan. It’s going on my top favorite for 2013 for sure. It’s another of those youth novels every adult should read. And I think it’s a good book for any writer, to see how simple words can relate such a powerful story.

    • Thank you for recommending them! I liked the Giver so much that I had to read the rest right away. They would be great for kids to read too. It seems like lots of discussions could come about just on the different societies, the ways the characters lived, and the choices they make. I’ll have to try The One and Only Ivan too – thank you!

    • Yes, they have entertaining stories too but hearing about the different communities was the part I really enjoyed because that’s the kind of thing I like to think about anyway – just for fun. 🙂

    • Yes, they’re good ones for book club discussions too because different people might see them in different ways, especially with all the community possibilities.

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