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The Giver: A Stylistic Literary Review of a Literary Work Lacking Style

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ImageLois Lowry’s The Giver offers the reader an appealing style of writing that develops character perceptions and plot points in a seemingly individual style that leaves many details to interpretation. Although presented in a simplistic method, using common language and imagery, the book can offer a different experience depending on the complexity of the reader, through the subtle subtext and imagery. Lowry is successful in portraying the setting of the characters and much of the mundane personal backgrounds of life and law through her ability to superficially drop the reader into the story’s locale. Despite being straightforward in writing style, Lowry does reveal the more spiritual nature of the story, which requires a different level of interpretation from the reader. The mystic powers of the Giver and the forced ignorance of the population are a form of science fiction not typically experienced in many “dystopian” stories and are left to pure imagination. From language and terminology to the images and visions of color, the reader is also left at times to interpret the meaning beyond the text. Notwithstanding the well-written nature of the story, the reader is also left wondering about far too much as a result of Lowry’s writing style. Concepts such as story origins, character development and unrealistic human reaction distract from the story’s true message of individuality, freedom and the human soul; all aspects that somehow become the goal for a character that truly knows, and has no way of knowing anything about it.

The character of Jonas becomes the exception in a world that is colorless and emotionless. Lowry succeeds at describing how utterly dull and dreary life is, once we are permitted to understand the true nature of the world through the eyes of Jonas after he magically becomes the next “receiver.” Lowry’s writing style built up adequate suspense for the revelation of the truth of how society is a controlled and subject to a forced “sameness”, but fell flat on the explanation. The reader is well prepared to understand Jonas’ difficulties dealing with relationships after he is exposed to the memories of the Giver, however it was difficult to move beyond the inhumane nature that was exhibited by this society. Feeling alienated from friends and family can be a difficult experience, especially when there is a significant separation of reality and perception. However, the larger theme was the reality that this culture allowed horrible atrocities to happen to the people within the community, without any emotion or thought. Even under Fascism or the most corrupt forms of Communism there was a proletariat class that sought overthrow due to the social and economic pain inflicted on the population; a pain they were well aware of.  Even the most cruel and evil Gestapo would have felt something as they conducted the “business” of the Nazi regime. The unrealistic nature of the story was personally difficult to get beyond, especially regarding the robotic structure of the characters and their naiveté to the world around them. While the style of writing was clear and concise, the gaps in backstory and a lack of true representation of our human spirit resulted in the belief that the characters might truly be a humanoid species on another planet rather than a dystopian society on Earth.

Through the use of foreshadowing, euphemisms, imagery and open interpretation, Lowry brings the reader along a splendid journey in a world that would never be. Unlike other dystopian and hero journeys, such as Animal Farm or Fahrenheit 451, the reader does not easily draw comparisons to the “real” world. Despite this, most readers will find the writing style to contribute to the experience of the characters and improve the reader’s investment in the story. Most readers will probably be hypnotized by the spiritual and mysterious nature of the Giver and his power to withhold memories and emotions through his mere presence. As we all have the same powers as “The Giver” we will mostly relate to the pain and suffering he must hold. Readers will be surprised by the colorless world and be intrigued by the new power that Jonas is given and what he will ultimately do with it. The story is built up well, however at times feels very hollow. The story was devoid of a true explanation of “why” which drastically contributed to a reduction in appreciating the style of writing. This is especially true when compared to a story like Animal Farm, where the reader can easily draw conclusions to how those characters match up to the real world, both by its characters and thematically.

For a children’s dystopian tale, Lowry’s style of writing will be intriguing and virtually poetic in nature, flowing with imagery and surprise turns.  The dialogue will be foreign to most readers, which will force a sense of entertainment. Examples will include, “I liked the feeling of love, I wish we still had that. I do understand that it wouldn’t work very well. And that it’s much better to be organized the way we are now. I can see that it was a dangerous way to live.” The response from his parents to his question about their love for him also will be an easy surprise to the average adolescent reader. They refer to love as a “meaningless” word that is “so meaningless that it’s become almost obsolete.” With concepts such as love, family, emotion and freedom s the most important themes in the book it greatly contributes to the readers perception of the story.

Although the underlying background themes, facts of law and the soul of the characters are NOT relatable, the contrast between this world and our world can be relatable to the adolescent reader. Many emotional concepts can be drawn from the story through the writing style that will make young readers refer to their own lives. “I am loved, but I don’t feel loved; I am free, but I don’t feel free; I see color, but everything feels so gray; I seem the same, but I am different. I have what I deserve, but I deserve more. I am with others, but I am lonely.” Lowry’s story will appeal to those readers that might agree with some or all of these statements and will find the character of Jonas very relevant in his isolation. The fact that the reader is left to interpret the ending and the meaning of certain concepts is a writing tactic that encourages the reader to think long after the last pages have been thumbed to a close. Lowry masterfully placates to the adolescent reader with these methods and with the creation of a hero character (and infant) worth routing for. We want them to survive and escape. We want good to win over evil. We want the truth to be told and for everyone to be freed from their captors. With Lowry’s The Giver, we don’t get the satisfaction we desire and are left to wonder the fate of every character we have supposedly come to consider companions. Much can be taken from the themes of the journey, the relationships that are portrayed or the method the plot is revealed. Lowry masterfully unwraps this world for the reader, like a panting folded ten times and now revealed to the world slowly.  The problematic reality for many readers will be the unwrapped image resembling that of an alien world rather than a tragic dystopian society within our own universe.


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