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The Giver
A society without love

Building a love-free society leads to the elaboration of concepts and systems of thought that harm, denature or enslave the human being.


Author: Monique Villen | Source: http://www.regnumchristi.org/Magazine In-form No. 53



A society without love 
The Giver 
 
Building a love-free society leads to the elaboration of concepts and systems of thought that harm, denature or enslave the human being.
By: Monique Villen | Source: http://www.regnumchristi.org/Magazine In-form No. 53 
 
The film The Giver (2014) directed by Phillip Noyce, is based on the book of the American writer Lois Lowry who won in 1993 the Newbery Medal of the Association for Library Service to Children and the Association of American Libraries. Lowry is known for writing about difficult topics for children and teenagers. In particular, The Giver (The Giver of Memories) has provoked a diversity of reactions in the schools of the United States. Some have adopted her book as part of the compulsory curriculum, as one of the best books in youth literature, while others have banned the book in the classroom. The work turned years later into a saga: Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). 
 
The novel narrates in third person the life of a boy named Jonah in an apparently utopian society that has eliminated almost all evils: pain and suffering, hunger, war, violence, hatred, envy, anger, greed... by daily injections that nullify the emotions and desires inherent to the human being. "From the ashes of a great catastrophe known as ruin, these communities arose to create harmony from disorder." Everyone seems happy in this carefree environment as the state-run by "The Elders" provides everything you need to live. Choose the spouse, the children, and the house in which they live and the career they pursue. However, when Jonah is selected to be the "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the memories of the past, he questions what it means to be human and realizes that these medications eradicate the emotional depth of human life and consequently love. It is indicative, that in the name of equality, they have designed a black and white world where color no longer exists, symbolically and literally speaking, a monotonous world like its seasons, its landscapes and its passions. This black and white vision reveals the narrowness of sight, when not blindness, of these people who have sacrificed the best part of their humanity, freedom, and love, in favor of security and comfort.
 
The gradual growth of the color gamut offers a perfect visual metaphor to show Jonah's awakening as he learns more and more about what life used to be and could be again. The more he discovers from the past, the more he disagrees with the inorganic and controlled nature of the life he carries. Building a love-free society leads to the elaboration of concepts and systems of thought that harm, denature and enslave the human being. Everything that man creates out of love, in the end, turns against him and leads to denial of him. It is seen in this dystopia the little value that is given to life and human dignity. Infanticide and euthanasia are practiced without questioning. The child is no longer born in the bosom of a family but is conceived artificially in a breeding center. Hail eugenics! When born, the baby has no name, only a number because it is not a person until it is given to an adoption family. This system denies the need for the human being to be welcomed, loved and able to love, to form fully as a person, in all its dimensions. If love is suppressed, the man lives then a non-truth, lies on itself. When Jonah understands it, he has to make a decision: to maintain the status quo or to try to change his world, against the "perfect" society of the elderly. Saint Augustine says (sermon 33): "Slavery belongs to fear; freedom to love." Jonah accepts the risk of freedom and chooses in terms of love. "The meaning of freedom appears more clearly in relation to love. The supreme act of freedom is love. " 
 
Jonah experiences love in his flesh through the memories of the past provided by the giver. That experience of love changes his life. 
 
Jonah hesitated. 
"But I did like that memory. I understand it's your favorite. I didn't catch the name of the whole feeling, that feeling that was so strong in the room".
"Love", said the Giver. 
Jonah repeated it.
"Love". 
They were a word and a new concept for him. 
 
It is interesting to note that in almost all the dystopias, for example, A Happy World (Huxley), 1984 (Orwell) or Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury), the first thing that is attacked or destroyed is the family because it is the special place where one learns to love and is loved by itself. In The Giver, the family is also distorted but thanks to the memories of traditional families, marriages and happy families of the past, Jonah dares to ask his adoptive parents if they feel love for him: 
 
"Jonah! You stop with that! Language accuracy, please!"
"What do you mean?" Jonah asked. 
"Your father means that you have used a very widespread word, so empty of content that is almost not used", explained his mother carefully.
Jonah looked at them without blinking. Empty of content? Never in his life had I felt anything as full of content as that memory. 
 
And it goes without saying that our community cannot function properly if we do not speak accurately. You might ask, "Are you comfortable with me?" The answer is, "Yes," − said his mother. 
 
- Or − his father suggested: "Are you proud of what I do?" And the answer is a "yes" without reservation. 
 
"Do you understand why it is unsatisfactory to use a word like "love"?" asked mom. 
 
The word «love» no longer makes sense in these communities, is replaced by «feel» or «do». "Politically correct" family relationships remain peaceful, stable, and orderly, but they are not born of affection and love. They have been "aseptized" by state-imposed medication that suppresses reciprocal attraction and desire for marriage, as well as the joy of living together, communicating among siblings and being creative. It is no coincidence that art, music, literature, and religion have disappeared.
 
Jonah begins to understand the transcendence of love, and when he is liberated from medication, he already likes the affective union with the people he loves. It is guided by this new impulse and this new light through the giver, the only person capable of loving in that enslaved society. This one expresses at the end of the film: "If only you could see the possibility of love. With love comes faith. And with that comes hope. “The giver is the first person to say to him, "I love you", and Jonah experiences for the first time the love of a father. Not only does he say it with words, but he shows it with the facts. He gives him the best memories of mankind knowing that he loses them forever, because once they are delivered they can no longer return, and he takes care of him as a son. 
 
"Which one do you like the most?" he asked the giver. "It is not necessary for me to give it yet" he hastened to add, I only ask because I hope to wait: sooner or later I will have to receive."
The Giver smiled. 
"Lie down," he said "I'm delighted. "
 
Jonah felt the joy from the first moment. Sometimes he had a hard time orienting himself, knowing what he was. But that time he entered directly into the happiness that pervaded the memory. 
 
With the experience of this paternal love, he can turn to give love and whisper for the first time "I love you" in the ear of his little brother Gabriel. From paternity to filiation and filiation to fraternity, Jonah, following the example of the giver, delivers his most precious memories to Gabriel. True love becomes a donation, identification, delivery, and dialogue, and it drives him out of himself to seek the good of the people he loves: the giver (paternal and filial love), Gabriel (brotherly love) and Fiona (spousal love). His journey could be summarized with these phrases of the boy James in his conversation with the sun in the alchemist of Paulo Coelho: 
 
It's what the alchemists do. They show that when we seek to be better than we are, everything around us becomes better too [...]. That's where the force of love comes in because when we love, we always want to be better than we are.
 
Jonah uses the apple (an image that subtly doubts the happiness of that false paradise) to avoid the injection that erases all emotion and desire. In the deceptive Garden of Eden, give the apple to Fiona to follow his example and reject what does not respond to the truth of man, which annihilates the unique and personal value of existence: «Fiona, I need you to do this. I need you to feel what I know. » The red color of the apple is not casual. It could be green or yellow, but red is the color of passion and love. It is the first color that Jonah perceives when he leaves the medication and begins to question the oppressive control of the government. Fiona, in turn, begins to get in touch with all her humanity and to look integrally to herself, an indispensable condition to love because a fully human and total love must encompass the person at all levels: feelings and will, body and spirit, etc. She has also been prepared in some way to respond to love with love. On many occasions, she looks as she desires the good of others, as she cares for them, as she gives the best of herself. When they meet the three classmates, Jonah, Fiona and Asher, and this last question: "Who are we?", Fiona replies: "We are friends". Friendship is a kind of love. It is also perceived that Fiona has a very large heart, very maternal when she takes care of the babies of the breeding center. These qualities help her to overcome her doubts and support Jonah, risking his life, just as Jonah puts his life in danger by saving Gabriel. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say: "Love until it hurts and when it hurts you will understand what love is." Contrary to the elderly who want to avoid suffering at the expense of love, the giver, Jonas and Fiona accept that authentic love implies sacrifice. Now that Jonah and Fiona have discovered what true love is, they don't conceive their life without it. They find it hard to accept that they have stolen the most beautiful part of their humanity, which makes life worth it. "There is much more," said the Giver. It's true, and at last Jonah and Fiona are living it. Pope Benedict said: 
 
"The main energy that moves the human soul is love. Human nature, in its deepest essence, is to love. In short, every human being is entrusted with a single task: learning to want, to love in a sincere, authentic and gratuitous way» 
 
This positive anthropological view of the human being, based on revelation, as opposed to the pessimistic vision of the elderly who do not believe that man can act fairly and accurately. It is true that the heart of man, wounded by sin, tends to selfishness, but faith tells us that love is stronger and that is worth to bet on it. "In the morning let me know of your great love because in you I have put my trust" (Psalm 143, 8).






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