The Giver by Lois Lowry

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is set in a place known simply as “the community”. In the community, everyone is expected to show one another respect and caring—rudeness, lying, and simple exaggeration are all discouraged. Anywhere beyond the community is known simply as “Elsewhere”, and those who break the rules, grow too old or too sick, or simply ask, are “released” to Elsewhere. People are divided by their numbers (ages) and job occupations. Once a person enters the Ceremony of Twelves, they are Assigned their roles in the community—except for Jonas, who is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories, the highest honor of them all. Jonas has no idea what it means to be able to “receive”, but enters training anyway, apprenticing the previous Receiver known as “the Giver.” As Jonas is given memories, he realizes that he and the community have lost more than just the past.

The simple detail given in the book reflects Jonas’s and the community’s point of views. They do not notice color, shape, or form because they have been taught not to. As the book goes on, the detail grows to show Jonas’s worldview expanding. The twist with color is also a clever one that I did not see coming, as is the more major twist towards the end. Even though we may not be able to perfectly see what is happening, we get the idea clear enough.

Dystopian novels are always hit-and-miss with me, and I feel that the one presented here works. Lowry wisely does not explain every facet of the community, as each answer would probably raise another question. There’s no extremely-advanced technology or a dictionary’s worth of terms to keep up with. Although the community, to us readers, is as bizarre as it needs to be, it does not break logic. There’s some sick kind of reason to how the community is run. The lack of explanation for what caused the world to become the way it is works in the story’s favor.

Jonas, being twelve, offers a naïve newcomer’s view on the events taking place. We learn what he learns. Admittedly, I would say that the only character with personalities are Lily, Jonas’s sister; Asher, Jonas’s friend; and the Giver himself. One could argue that this is the point, to show how the community is boring and unison, but the vocal charismas of Asher and Lily kind of undermine that. The Giver himself is an enjoyable character—you expect him to be quiet and mysterious, in that ‘creepy-magic-old-guy’ kind a way, but he’s actually very sweet and soft-spoken. The way he interacts with Jonas is both heartwarming and telling of the setting the story takes place in. The same can be said for the dialogue spoken in the story. It is stilted and awkward, but with reason.

The subjects that story tackles, and the numb tone to which it does, adds to the eerie and mysterious tone of the novel. Murder, loneliness, solitude, and lack of emotion are all discussed in a speculative manner—i.e., how would people act if they did not know what ‘this’ meant? Jonas himself must deal with great emotional suffering as he realizes that the people he loves cannot and do not love him back. The film adaptation was a romance story between Jonas and Fiona, but it’s more of a tragedy here. Jonas has feelings for Fiona, but not only can she not reciprocate them, Jonas himself can hardly understand them. This helps the curiosity as to what caused society to become the way it has.

Though the novel has many things working in its favor, and it builds a not-wholly-original-but-overall-captivating world, it ultimately could have done more. The book is very short and only takes a shallow glance into its circumstances. Many things are left in the air and are unresolved. Now, it is important to know that the book actually has sequels/prequels/midequels? Other books that take place in the same setting. Unfortunately, it is also said that these books are inferior to The Giver, and I probably won’t be reading them. So, judging the book by itself, I don’t think it took advantage of its setting as much as it could have. Also, I know many consider the ending to be artistic and deep and insightful, but I was simply unsatisfied by it.

Overall, I still think The Giver is a fine, if not simple, book.



The Green Mile by Stephen King

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Stephen King’s The Green Mile is a recollection by the elderly Paul Edgecombe of his days as a prison guard. Paul was a guard for the E block of the prison, where prisoners are kept until their executions via electric chair—the floor of the E block is bright green, earning it the title of the Green Mile. Paul finds his job to be a never-ending cycle of prisoner comes in, prisoner stays, prisoner goes, etc. Lately, he has to grapple with Percy Wetmore, a young prison guard who uses connections to higher-ups as an excuse to abuse the prisoners, and Eduard Delacroix, an insane but seemingly harmless inmate with an amazingly intelligent mouse named Mr. Jingles. While Paul and the other guards think nothing of the inmates, their minds change when they meet John Coffey—a giant of a man found guilty of the rape and murder of two little girls. Though Coffey is quiet at first, the guards soon realize that there is more to him than meets the eye—a superpower, perhaps, that doubles as a curse.

As with all of his works, King has an eye for dialogue and detail. I saw every image and heard every conversation as perfectly as possible. Though the characters use expressions we don’t in reality, they did not feel out of place. And though not every moment of the book is packed with suspense and drama, I rarely ever felt bored with it. The cuts to the present-day elderly Paul calmed things down, but did not damage the overall experience, something that most past-and-present-spliced books find difficult to pull off. Delacroix, Wetmore, Coffey, and Wharton were all characters with fantastic characterizations that made them stand out from one another. The plot of the book does not have a typical point-A-to-point-B formatting. The book does not build up to something over its course; arguably, the climax of the book happens a little over halfway through, with the rest tying up loose ends.

On the downside, some of these details can border on unnecessary—one will probably tire of how often the act of urinating is detailed in this book. The first part of the book that focuses so heavily on Mr. Jingles the mouse can also be irksome to get through. And though some of the characters stand out so greatly, others, mostly the prison guards, do not. In all honesty, the only thing I ever knew to differentiate them by was the knowledge that Brutal was the tall and muscular one. That’s it.

The book gives a message that can be hard to swallow: we will all do bad things, some more than others, and how soon we will have to make up for them is unknown. Characters like Wetmore and Percy, without giving away details, exemplify true evils in humans with no remorse for their actions. Meanwhile, characters like Paul and Coffey spend much of their time questioning their choices and wondering if they have done the right thing. The ‘twist’ in the book is also well-executed, as I legitimately did not see it coming, and the smaller ‘twist’ at the end further proves the book’s message.

The Green Mile is deep, dark, and contemplative, and I’d recommend it to everyone.