In theaters today, “The Giver” is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Lois Lowry. Though published twenty years ago, the book and the new film adaptation are still relevant to audiences today.
“The Giver” follows Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), who is aged up a few years in the movie, as he is trained to become the new “receiver of memory” with a man known as the Giver (Jeff Bridges). The story takes place in a seemingly utopian community, but as Jonas learns more about the truth of his world, he discovers that while his society may be spared pain and loss, it is also lacking emotion, color, and meaning.
In a world rife with agony, it’s easy to see the appeal of a community built on “sameness” – where everyone is peaceful, happy, and equal. But this sort of idyllic life comes with a price – one which Jonas determines is not worth paying.
Take, for instance, the lack of choice. As Meryl Streep so ominously states in the trailer for “The Giver,” “When people are given the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.”
Don’t many of us feel this way about people who choose differently than us? Just look at how heated political debates have gotten between Democrats and Republicans these days. Each side is certain they are “right” and the other is “wrong.” Wouldn’t it be so much easier if the choice was already made for us?
And yet, think of what freedoms we’d be sacrificing for the sake of eliminating these disagreements. “The Giver” reminds us to recognize and celebrate our differences – even if it leads to discourse and disagreements. In “The Giver,” society ignores any differences and seeks to promote “sameness” – but at the cost of their own betterment.
Likewise, “The Giver” is a celebration of memory. As school children, we are told that it is important to learn our history so as not to repeat it. And in “The Giver,” that is ultimately the role of Bridges’ character. As the “receiver of memory,” he is the lone person who can advise on whether a decision is good or bad based on his memories of the past.
Beyond societal impact, think of who we would be without our memories. As individuals, we are shaped by our past and by our memories. The society of “The Giver” erases memories to eliminate pain – but in doing so, they have eliminated true joy and happiness, as well. They have eliminated the capacity to love, truly and completely.
In a world filled with pain, it’s important to consider the lessons of “The Giver.” It’s easy to look at the news and see violence and loss: the death of Robin Williams; the protests in Ferguson, Missouri; on-going violent conflict in the Middle East. Have we forgotten what books like "The Giver" taught us?
We live in a world today filled with anger and hurt and violence. Perhaps reflecting on “The Giver” can give us all pause to consider what really matters, and refocus our energy on creating a better world that embraces love and learns from pain and loss.
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