Language Use in Lois Lowry's The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Amazon Link)

One of the effects of “Sameness” on the community is the rule of precision of language. This meaning use the word that most accurately represents what one is thinking or feeling at any given time. This precision of language eliminates the figurative language use that many speakers, and I can’t say speakers of English because that would be too limiting and outside my scope of knowledge, use in their everyday language.

In Jonas’s first lie to his parents, he says that “he slept soundly,” when the question he responded to included that question in addition to the question of whether or not he dreamt. In an inadvertent lie he told as a child and was reprimanded for, he stated that he was starving. In both instances, the language was chosen to explicitly express Jonas’s feelings, though it is explained to young Jonas that he has never experienced starvation, and will never experience starvation within the community. It isn’t until Jonas leaves the community that he can accurately say that he has come across this feeling.

Authors use diction, the specific choice in words, to evoke certain feelings in readers. Lowry’s choice of the word “release” to embody the ideas of suicide, euthanasia and infanticide, is meant to cause even the reader to wonder at the beginning of the novel. Her choice in words allows the reader to experience the epiphany along with Jonas and react with him to the truth of the events in the community.

Jonas is selected to be the community’s next Receiver, where the other Twelves are assigned for their positions. The distinction has to do with honor, as the Elders suggest. The positions that others in his year fill are positions that are less selective, and while not of lesser importance, of lesser prestige than becoming the Receiver. That Jonas is selected rather than assigned expresses the importance of the position to the other members of the community.

Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. St. Paul, MN: EMC/Paradigm Publishing.

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