Excerpt: Sincere Ignorance by S. Lee — a thematic essay on The Giver by Lois Lowry

While the impact of the second important memory Jonas receives may not seem as dramatic as war, it still shows how people can’t fathom what they have never experienced. The Giver, the day directly after giving Jonas war, gives him a different memory: a memory of family—a full family of three generations—celebrating a holiday together. In the memory, Jonas perceives a deep family bond, true joy, and something he has never experienced before in his structured courtesy-instilling world: love. Love is “a word and concept new to him[,]” which fascinates Jonas. (Lowry 157). Because of this love that Jonas is now capable of feeling because of the memory, he makes a momentous choice that shows how deeply the memory affected him. Toward the book’s end when Jonas flees the community to Elsewhere, he takes Gabriel—the newchild his family had been caring for who would be Released because of his insomnia—with him. In order to save Gabriel, Jonas must leave earlier than expected, but because Jonas now knows what love is through the memories, he makes the morally correct decision to save Gabriel’s life. While some may argue that saving one person’s life is not worth jeopardizing the continued detrimental societal ignorance, Jonas decides he cannot let a loved one die like because of selfishness. That selfishness being if he waited to leave—so he would be more prepared—Gabriel would be euthanized (Released). Now that Jonas knows what love is, his love for Gabriel compels him to make the selfless decision out of love. Toward the book’s beginning, Jonas has just begun to take pills to prevent him from having the capacity to feel in depth (the Stirrings). Everyone else does too, starting at a certain age. Combined with the structured life of the individual community member that leaves little room for important choice, the ability to feel deeply is effectively quenched. As a result, nobody in the community—except the Giver and Jonas—has real feelings. Certainly, it could be said that the Old and the young children do not take these feeling-stifling pills, so they may be capable of feeling deeply. While this is a good point, it fails to account that people cannot know what they have never experienced. Life in the community certainly does not allow for much out of the ordinary or pain of any kind, which is a barrier to feeling anything real. Therefore, the young children and the Old are incapable of feeling deeply, even without taking the pills. They can’t feel what they have never experienced. By never having the chance to know love or pain because of their way of life, the community’s people, especially the Elders, limit their wisdom by forcing the burden of experience upon the Giver and Jonas. The community’s citizens surrender the right to even have the potential to feel deeply. Due to the cunningly contrived controlled community lifestyle, though, the people do not even know what they have given up by letting the Elders decide everything. They let themselves be sincerely ignorant, but they never will know what they’re missing because they do not know.

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