The Giver: A Sociological Analysis of a Dystopian Society
The novel, The Giver by Lois Lowry, provides an interesting sociological analysis essay example of a seemingly perfect society that eliminates negative aspects such as pain, war, hatred, and fear, but at the cost of personal freedom and choice, as well as strict rules and uniformity. In this society, even the process of assigning spouses and children is decided by a committee rather than an individual. The lack of choice and individuality in this society raises questions about the importance of personal freedom and the potential dangers of a society that values conformity over individuality. The main character Jonas's journey of self-discovery and rebellion against the strict rules of his society provides a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of creating a perfect society. Through sociological analysis, the novel highlights the importance of balance and the potential consequences of a society that prioritizes the elimination of negative aspects at the cost of personal freedom and choice.
At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is given the highly honored assignment of Receiver of Memory. “The Receiver is the sole keeper of the community’s collective memory. When the community went over to Sameness—its painless, warless, and mostly emotionless state of tranquility and harmony—it abandoned all memories of pain, war, and emotion, but the memories cannot disappear totally. Someone must keep them so that the community can avoid making the mistakes of the past, even though no one but the Receiver can bear the pain.” Therefore, Jonas receives the memories from the past, whether it’s good and bad, from The Giver. When Jonas receives these memories from the Giver Jonas must endure the pain, pleasure, bright colors, extreme temperatures hot and cold, hunger, love, etc. While going through these memories Jonas realizes the sameness in his society and how bland it is. Jonas starts to become frustrated with the members of his community and the Committee because these memories have made his life more meaningful than his life in his own society.
The Giver understands Jonas and has had the same attitude as Jonas for years so the two grew very close in this story. Jonas then realizes he must come up with some kind of a plan to change things in his society forever. In the story, the Giver explains to Jonas that his own daughter had been asked to be released from all of the sadness from the memories since she had been designated as the new Receiver and when she passed away when she has released the memories she accumulated were released into the community. The Giver encourages Jonas to escape from the community and once Jonas leaves his large supply of memories will disperse in the community and the Giver will help the community come to terms with the new emotions and thoughts which will overall change the society forever as they once knew it.
In this book The Giver it has very good examples of perspectives we have learned in this sociology class so far such as functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism also information regarding basic social processes, social inequality, institutions, and social change found in the book.
Functionalism describes how the pieces of society work together for the good of the whole, it focuses on how human behavior is governed by relatively stable social structures. How functionalism applies to this book is because since everything is the same, there are no colors, no feelings, no music, no individuality, and no ability to make choices for themselves all they’re left to do is to function since all their own daily routines are planned out for them. Overall everyone in the community is moving through every day in their own specific general duties they are assigned and they follow the rules without even thought of opposing just because that’s how they all were raised to listen to the Committee.
In the book, I found a couple an example of functionalism. My example is from page 7 “He listened politely, though not very attentively, while his father took his turn, describing a feeling of worry that he’d had that day at work: a concern about one of the new children who was not doing well. Jonas's father’s title was Nurturer. He and the other Nurturers were responsible for all the physical and emotional needs of every new child during its earliest life. It was a very important job, Jonas knew, but it was not one that interested him much”. (7) This example represents functionalism because it shows Jonas’s father’s dedication as a nurturer. It shows how his father is contributing to the society they live in. To conclude about functionalism in The Giver, it is found in many examples throughout the book their whole society in the book is about how their citizens are all obedient, law-abiding citizens this way they have their citizens always contributing to the society which goes hand in hand for the sake of its stability of functionalism.
Conflict theory says that society is a struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed, and or is a framework in which society is viewed as composed of groups that are competing for resources. It also means how elites use their power to control the weaker groups. How conflict theory applies to this book is due to the fact that there is no bad. As well as Lowry giving the reader a personal depiction of a world where everything is equal, everyone is just as important as another. Until one day when Jonas decides to change his mind and act against what he normally does. Jonas was going through life on his way to release until he came across some scarce resources and realized he could open his mind and think differently and make a change. No one questioned authority, and the authority was by nature not easily persuaded because of tradition, but nobody really cared. Everything flowed smoothly and no one’s life was better, more valuable, or more joyful than another. Jonas wanted to leave his community the memories will get out and that in itself will be what separates the two lines more in-depth because they will have the opportunity once that happens to step outside the cloud of false consciousness and truly war against what will become the greater benefit to his society. They use their power of being on the committee to control everyone else in the entire community which I believe also represents conflict theory in this book.
Symbolic Interactionism shows that society is constructed from people’s behavior in groups and by people's understandings. How symbolic interactionism is seen in the book is through the precision of their language it is extremely important to the people of the community. People are even disciplined for using the wrong vocabulary. In addition to everything that is decided for them, there are standard procedures they must go through in order to apologize, give thanks, and how you must respond during specific discussions. For example, in the book Asher apologizes to his classmates and all of the classmates responded with the exact same thing because that is what the procedures taught them.
With Jonas trying to create such a big change in his society shows he used social change as a strategy to find changes. He wants to cause a change in the social order of his society as they know it, since he doesn’t believe it is right what they are doing and how things work. In the book, the Giver tells Jonas, 'having you here with me over the past year has made me realize that things must change' (154). Jonas represents hope for a different future, so, in essence, he is basically the promoter as much as the Giver for social change in their society.
Basic Social Processes
Basic Social processes refer to forms of social interaction that occur repeatedly. By social processes that can also mean the ways in which individuals and groups interact and establish social relationships. There are various forms of social interaction such as cooperation, conflict, competition, and accommodation, etc. Basic social processes are found a lot in The Giver because they do the same thing every day, have the same routine. The way they socially interact with each other is even written out how should they respond to certain conversations.
Social institution means the usual or standard ways by which society meets its basic needs. Social institutions may include family, religion, education, medicine, politics, etc. This applies to The Giver because, in order for the society to achieve sameness everything from climate, geography to the structure of the family unit, and size of their population is controlled by the Committee. Each person’s day is predetermined, from the day he/she is born to the day of release every action prescribed in a massive book of rules and no one questions anything. As a result, the ruling body stays comfortably in power.
Social inequality is the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society. This applies to The Giver because the culture and society that a person lives and grows in, heavily impacts an individual’s social position. In this case, it would be the position the people in Jonas’s society are assigned by the Committee. Overall social position influences social statuses, meaning who is more or less valued.
Overall this book The Giver demonstrates many different examples and ideas that we have learned this year in this sociology class. Those being functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism while also incorporating information regarding basic social processes, social inequality, institutions, and social change. I tried to give an analysis of the book in the beginning in order to break down and support my answers to how this book has reflected each topic. To conclude, this book was an excellent book to compare the things we’re learning in class I believe it helped me understand what these topics truly mean more.