Literature has always been casting a glance to the future and saying “we’re fucking doomed, bro.” Wells, Orwell, and Bradbury all looked at the future where the world became nice, orderly, and controlling as all hell. Even modern writers are making children murder each other and… well, that seems to be the only way modern authors can tell a good anti-Utopian, or dystopian, story.
Way back in the time before the Internet, Lois Lowry in her novel, The Giver, created a society where everything was bland and nobody remembered good or bad things. Her hero, Jonas, becomes the Receiver of Memory, the only person in the community to know all the good and bad things about life including feelings of grief, pain, and sexy times. As the story progresses, Jonas realizes how deeply fucked he is and ultimately escapes in a rather ambiguous ending that the author later ruined with clarification.
The book has raised a lot of controversy over the years because of the aforementioned grief, pain, and sexy times. Jonas learns about death and loss, something the society has been suppressing so everyone can live in “sameness.” The population also takes pills to stop “the stirrings” aka “hormonal sex stuff,” something Jonas has to stop taking and experience. While never graphic in its sexual content, the book never the less raises difficult questions.
Suicide, euthanasia, and death are also handled in the book. The community in the book bases the topic on a “population control” standard, killing small children and old people and allowing anyone who requests “release” to be casually killed. Several scenes and discussions in the book explore these notions and Jonas’s growing horror. By the end, the question of survival itself comes into play with the kid reading it having his mind properly screwed with, causing lots of questions.
And it all comes back to questions. What’s the nature of life? After life? The afterlife? What causes our society to go on? Does the norm matter and who controls what the normal life is? Parents shit themselves at these questions and rightly so; the questions are important. Suppression of these questions is something that leads to a world like that in The Giver, ironic as the title continues to be censored and suppressed.