The of Genesis, it says, “And the Lord God

            The Giver by Lois Lowry tells the story of
a controlled society that promises a life without pain or sadness – from controlled
weather to everyone born in a particular year having the same birthday, this dystopian
society creates a normal that is much different than human life today. When
Jonas turns twelve, he is given the assignment of the Receiver of Memory, one
of the most respected positions in the society (Lowry, 1993, p. 76). In his
first weeks of training, Jonas quickly discovers the problems of this strictly
controlled society through his receipt of memories of past societies. Jonas
learns along with many other restrictions, no one in his society can even see
color. As he begins to develop the “Capacity to See Beyond” (Lowry, 1993, p.
79), he does not understand the quality of color until the Giver attempts to
explain it to him. Throughout the novel, the color red in particular has great
significance, representing knowledge, history, love, and violence.

One day when
Jonas was throwing an apple back and forth with his friend, Asher, he noticed
the apple changed while it was in the
air (Lowry, 1993, p. 30). Later, the Giver explains to Jonas that color is a
quality everyone used to understand and recognize, but the elders decided that
color created too many problems, and the reader assumes that the society was genetically
modified to only see in black and white. In the book of Genesis, it says, “And
the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the
garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will
certainly die'” (Genesis 2:16-17, New International Version). In the western
world, this tree is often depicted as an apple tree, although it is not clear
exactly what fruit came from it; because of this, apples have become a symbol
of knowledge (hence, teachers are often associated with apples). The author
intentionally uses an apple as the first thing that Jonas sees in color as a
foreshadowing of the knowledge that
is to come. Through the instance with the apple, Jonas has a small glimpse of just
how sheltered and “protected” his society has become, and readers can
appreciate that although color has the capacity to spark division, there is an
immense beauty in it worthy of appreciation.

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experienced the color red a second time when he was on stage during the
Ceremony of Twelve – he looked out into the crowd and the faces of the people changed, like the apple had before (Lowry,
1993, p. 80). The Giver later explains that it was the red undertones of
people’s flesh that he was seeing. It is not a coincidence that Jonas sees the
color red in the faces of the people in the audience. Not only does red
represent knowledge, but it now carries a deeper meaning that Jonas unravels as
he receives memories of the past in his training. The red begins to represent
the history of the people in the crowd that they themselves don’t even know. It
represents the stories of generations before him and helps him make sense of
his present. Although many students struggle to embrace history, it brings
meaning to laws, relationships, art, writing, values, etc. that cannot be
experienced without studying the past.

experiences the color red a third time in Fiona’s hair: “As he looked up and
toward her going through the door, it happened; she changed…It seemed to be
just her hair” (Lowry, 1993, p. 114). Through this instance, Lowry highlights another
huge part of life that Jonas is missing out on – love. As soon as he
experienced what his parents called stirrings
(feelings of desire in a sexual nature), he was given medication for those stirrings to go away (Lowry, 1993, p.
48). Once, when Jonas asked if his parents loved him after receiving a memory of
love, they asked him to use more precise language (Lowry, 1993, p.159). Love
wasn’t part of the society because the elders believed that love complicated
things. Through this depiction of a loveless society, Lowry pushes readers to
see past heartache and negative experiences with love and realize how important
it truly is.

A few more weeks
into his training, the Giver presented Jonas with a memory of bloodshed; Jonas was
“overwhelmed with a new perception of the color he knew as red” (Lowry, 1993,
p. 126). As he learned about violence and bloodshed, he realized the evil and
harm people are capable of. Yet, somehow, that didn’t change his desire to change
his society and free them of the restrictions they were under. He realizes that
in order to truly appreciate happiness, the hurt and anguish of the world will be
inevitably present because the world is full of sin and broken people. However,
the presence of love is how the hurt and anguish can be mended.

History. Love. Violence. Lois Lowry emphasizes the importance of these four
things; without one, the others cannot be fully appreciated. Through history,
knowledge is gained. Through violence, love is clung to. The reader is left
with challenging thoughts. Knowledge is something that is often taken for granted
– it is at the fingertips of this generation, and, in its great abundance, is only
seconds away from being shared, yet rarely do people stop to think of how to get
somewhere without GPS. History is a subject many students struggle with because
its application is not as apparent as subjects like math and science; rather, it
gives meaning to things experienced every day. Love is known for heartache; however,
in The Giver, the reader is shown what
life would look like without love and a greater appreciation is therefore gained.
Violence is something that makes many shudder, but it serves as a continual reminder
that the world is made up of broken, sinful people that desperately need a savior.