Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world of “Sameness” where there’s no pain and suffering, but where the community is stripped of the freedom to choose and feel emotions?
This is one of the many questions the 6th grade students discussed during our second quarter where we read Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The novel follows the story of a 12-year old boy living in what seemed like a Utopian society in the beginning, but is revealed to be a Dystopian one as the story progresses.
To introduce the novel, the students were shown a picture of Jonas, the protagonist, holding a baby. They were then asked to write on post-it notes what they see, think, and wonder about the picture. Their answers range from silly, such as “Why is he buffed?” to more observant ones such as “Why is he holding a baby? Is he trying to save him or trying to escape from something?”
One of the activities during this novel unit required the 6th graders to write and discuss the rules that they have at home and in their community. Some had standard ones such as no use of gadgets at a certain time while some are more random such as they are not allowed to go in their house’s basement. They had a lively conversation about the different rules and we then related these to the rules that were enforced in Jonas’ community.
The students were given study guides that they should answer as they progress in reading the novel. The guides helped them understand the story better through analyzing certain events and characters. Some students were very honest in the beginning and declared that they really don’t like reading books, so it made me smile when some of them couldn’t wait to read until the end even though those chapters were not yet assigned. The novel further opened the discussion on how freedom to choose and feel emotions might also mean feeling pain.
It is interesting to note how the ending of the novel was polarizing. Either the student didn’t like it as the author didn’t explicitly say what happened to the protagonist in the end (whether he died or was able to escape from his community and save the baby) or the student liked how the ending was open-ended and was open to interpretations.
How about you? Would you rather live a safe, comfortable life where everyone is the same or a life filled with memories and color, but also one where there’s pain?