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YMMV / The Giver

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The book

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • The book Deconstructing Penguins applies some Fridge Logic and points out that people don't lie unless they know what they are doing is wrong. The argument escalates until "Jonas is no longer running away from a place where everyone believes the same things and he's different. He's running away from a place of terrible corruption that desperately needs him as the one person who might be able to make things better." In-story, this is explained as the reason The Giver stays, and Jonas does not. One must leave for the memories to return, and the Giver is not as hale and is more experienced with comforting people.
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    • Was Rosemary the Giver's biological or adopted daughter? It's never confirmed either way since it's possible that the Giver's sperm was used to create a successor, or that his spouse was a former Birthmother. If the Giver helped raise her, then it would explain why her death devastated him, especially since he blamed himself for sharing painful memories. If it was biological, like Claire, later on, he developed a paternal attachment to her and was watching from a distance and feared the worse when she applied for Release.
  • "Common Knowledge": The book is a novel about a futuristic society where everyone looks and acts the same... except it's not. People in the Community have distinct personalities, and government-mandated personality tests are actually a huge plot point. Technically, there are a handful of people in the Community with distinct looks (the protagonist and his love interest stand out for having blue eyes and red hair, respectively) though selective breeding by the government tries to prevent this. The Community's distinguishing features are its strict regulation of people's career paths and everyday lives, and its ban on strong emotions. It's a bit more complex than "Everyone is the same!"
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  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Early on in the book, it's stated that jokes about being Released to Elsewhere are met with a reprimand. Late in the book, we learn exactly why being Released is no laughing matter.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • One inspiration for the story was Lois Lowry's conversations with her son, a USAF fighter pilot, prior to the Persian Gulf War. Her son would later go on to die in a plane crash after the novel's publication. It gets harsher when you know the details and background events. The novel opens with a plane flying low over the community. A few years after the novel was published, a USAF pilot, who was known for low overflights and showing off, crashed his plane, killing all on board. Later in the novel, the Giver told Jonas of how wars had been started when planes were fired on by mistake. Also a few years after the novel was published, two US fighter jets misidentified two US Army Blackhawk helicopters and shot them down, killing all on board. These two incidents resulted in a push for greater accountability among USAF personnel. On May 30, 1995, Major Donald Lowry's F-15 crashed. The cause: two airmen had misconnected two control rods. The Air Force sought to prosecute the two airmen involved, despite evidence that the Air Force knew of the potential for such an accident and had done nothing to fix it. They sought the Lowry family to testify for stiff punishment of the men involved, but the Lowrys wrote a letter asking for leniency. The day the court-martial was to begin, one of the airmen charged left the base and headed to a wooded location he frequented. The airman's father and other Air Force personnel joined a search. The airman in question was in a hunting shack. As his commander approached, he shot himself in the head. He left a note for the Lowrys, in which he stated, "I know I am going to heaven. And in heaven I cannot hurt anyone else, not even by accident."
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    • It can also be harsh in hindsight given how important results of Meyers-Briggs personality tests are in The New '10s when it comes to employment.
    • In-story, the whole reason that Jonas leaves is to save Gabriel from getting Released. When they start to starve during the journey, Jonas thinks that maybe they should have stayed but then Gabriel would have died. Three books later in Son, we learn that Gabriel is the only one who can defeat the Trademaster. If Jonas had stayed, the Trademaster never would have been defeated.
    • Likewise, Jonas and Lily's mother rebukes Lily for saying she wants to be a Birthmother to spend time with the babies. She explains that Birthmothers don't actually spend time with the babies and are then relegated to menial labor; Jonas's father instead suggests that Lily could become a Nurturer, who do help rear the newborns. Son shows exactly how hard it is to be a Birthmother from Claire's perspective; it is quite traumatizing for a teenager and it gets worse for her when Gabriel goes missing.
  • Inferred Holocaust:
    • Not so much inferred as shown in flashbacks; the Giver explains that all the pain of the world was eliminated, along with color, holidays, and families. This meant that likely there was a lot of oppression of people who didn't want to give up those things.
    • The community never appears again in the sequels showing what happened after Jonas ran away with Gabriel. We only see his father suffering Adult Fear on realizing his oldest son vanished, feeling real fear for the first time ever. It's never explained if they are able to change, or if they still exist.
  • Moe: Gabriel is an utterly adorable baby with bright eyes and a giggling spirit. Both Jonas and Lily fawn over him, with Lily commenting on how cute he is. Even though Jonas is later terrified for Gabriel's life and steals him away on hearing he's been marked for Release, they have a sweet play-wrestling scene where Jonas tries to tuck him into bed while they're on the run.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Jonas' parents claiming that "do you love me?" is a meaningless question and suggesting a few more specific ones like "do you cherish me?" is treated as a horrifying sign that they don't understand love. However, it might be argued that a parent who cherishes and takes pride in their child does indeed love that child according to any reasonable definition, and that it's not the worst thing in the world if they prefer to focus on their specific, individual feelings rather than using the blanket term for them.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Who was the Giver's spouse? Was she Rosemary's mother, biological or adopted? The Giver mentions offhand that Jonas could look her up but volunteers no information.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs: "Scopolamine of the soul," to quote the author. The drug has multiple uses, but what she meant is that the society depicted has numbed itself to feeling.
  • The Woobie:
    • Jonas. The poor guy eventually starts to break down, when he realizes that he can't express the new things he knows and feels to his friends or family. His best friend becomes impatient with him after inadvertently triggering Jonas's memory of dying in a war and brushes it off when Jonas tries to explain why he's upset. Jonas's parents scold him for using imprecise language when he asks them "do you love me?" And then, he finds out that his father—a kind man who Jonas always thought of as being good with kids—cheerfully euthanizes babies who don't measure up to the community's criteria. Even worse, he learns that his dad has every intention of doing this to a baby that had been living in their house for a while and who they'd all been bonding with. Jeez!
    • Poor, poor Rosemary... She received several happy memories from the Giver, but, then, she's so horrified by some of the painful ones that she asks for Release. And she even injects herself.
    • The Giver definitely qualifies as well (in fact, he arguably has it worse than the other two COMBINED!). First off, he ALONE must carry all of society's memories, good and bad, whilst living apart from the rest of the Community (not that they could understand and be of any help anyway). And then his daughter Rosemary is selected to be the next receiver and he is forced to transmit those memories to her. He gave her only positive ones at first, but was finally forced to face reality and start giving her the painful ones (which, he later tells Jonas, "broke [his] heart"). After just five weeks, she is unable to bear the burden any longer and Releases herself. Worse yet, the other Elders had him watch said Release (he turned his head when Rosemary announced that she wanted to inject herself). It's painfully obvious that the poor guy hasn't been the same since (really, it's a wonder he didn't lose it completely!). He even states that, after he helps the Community adjust to having all the memories after Jonas leaves, he intends to be Released himself so that he can be with his daughter.

The film

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Given her expanded role, Chief Elder is subjected to this. Does she truly believe in what she preaches or is she more interested in power? Is it possible that she was Rosemary's mother and that her daughter's death played a role in shaping her character?
  • Funny Moments: In the movie, one of the segments the Community's leaders watch is that of Fiona and Jonas kissing. One of the elder leaders wonders out loud "What are they doing" in a voice as though they were a curious innocent child. Kind of ironic.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Who woulda guessed Asher would later become the clown-themed bringer of disorder and anarchy?
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: The biggest complaint of the movie is the romantic story between Jonas and Fiona that was not in the book. In the book, Jonas merely had a crush on Fiona and the tragedy was that romance was impossible for them because Fiona was irretrievably brainwashed by the community and even committed "Release" on senior citizens.
  • Tainted by the Preview: The fans are not happy about the movie's trailer. If you didn't know better, you'd swear it was actually a parody of In Name Only adaptations that only exist to jump on the bandwagon of young adult dystopias. This lightened up a bit on the movie's release, as it's far less action-heavy and more true to the book than the trailers let on. That said, the film still ended up receiving predominantly mixed-to-negative reviews.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Despite her huge plot importance and played by big name Taylor Swift, Rosemary only has three seconds of screentime and her importance is mostly in dialogue.
  • What an Idiot!:
    You'd Expect: That although no member of the Community can escape camera watch completely, Jonas would move out of direct camera range to kiss Fiona.
    Instead: He kisses her in full view of the camera, which incriminates him when the Chief Elder brings up all his activity for the past year.
    You'd Expect: The Chief Elder to choose anyone but Asher, Jonas' best friend, to find him, and then "accidentally" have him eliminated.
    Instead: She sends Asher, who is not only a rookie drone pilot and probably couldn't be trusted with any job of that magnitude, but also lets Jonas go.
    You'd Expect: Fiona to try to escape the Nurturing Center empty-handed. Her pursuers already know or can at least infer Jonas has Gabe, and escaping empty-handed would keep Fiona relatively safe.
    Instead: She grabs, and starts running with, an empty baby carrier. This is ostensibly to throw pursuers off the scent, but it doesn't work and just hastens their decision to Release her.


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