The Giver

All posts tagged The Giver

Dystopias, as a genre, contain a huge amount of content. They consider all that is in a society, and pushes them to the extreme. A dystopia represents a stratified socio-political state that exercises total (or near-total) control at the price of their subjects’ individual rights, and uses deceptive appeals in the form of slogans and propaganda to maintain order according to a corruptive governing doctrine.

(1) Organized Division

The atmosphere of a dystopian world is characterized by the presence of a caste or divisive mandate.  In the Divergent series, we see that to maintain order and control, hope is only placed on the “ones that know” and have a place in society. We witness a division of friends and even family members, based on character and individual qualities, into four groups that accentuate an individuals primary trait (knowledge, bravery, selflessness, honesty, kindness). This separating and hierarchical influence is also established in the in-class text The Hunger Games in which Panem is divided into 12 districts that have distinct cultures, customs, and commodities, while only interacting with one another through the televised bloodshed between their tributes.  Both texts show how divisive measures are placed on the populaces in efforts to maintain order, and, in other ways, limit communication.

The 12 Districts of Panem illustrating dystopian division. (

(2) Control

Dystopias are NOT societies run per the govern. These are communities that have essentially given up on human nature, and therefore do not trust the decisions made by their citizens. In dystopias, this control is presented as security and protection from the unpredictable flaws of human nature. This heavy hand has its grasp on every facet of an individual’s interactions. Individual rights do not exist in a dystopian society, and if they do, they are limited or an item of deception. Dystopian control also extends further to surveillance and forced uniformity. In dystopian text like  The Giver, everyone is denied knowledge, sexual relationship, and even to see visual color. This “sameness” illustrates the control that is relinquished by the individual to the “betterment” of a society.

Quote from The Giver on the topic of “sameness”. (

(3) Doctrines and Deception

Dystopias are also a socio-political entity, and are run by a governing doctrine. Looking through the eyes of a radical socialist, one would see many similarities. Dystopias often thrive on exaggeration. A slogan is often the core of the verbiage within these society doubling as the source of deception. These doctrines and mandate are usually contradictory to their method of execution. For example, in The Hunger Games, in efforts to maintain peace, the Capital established violent gladiatorial combat between teenagers while simultaneously pinning the 12 districts against one another. Even looking at a classic dystopian text like 1984, we are presented with a term called “double think” which is the act of holding two contradictory opinions at once and simultaneously believing in both of them, which is said to be a talent every Party member was required to possess.

1984 Party Slogan (

These are just three core principle that go into defining a dystopia, but there are many more. Dystopias are fluid concepts, and, depending on what is exaggerated, can appear in many different forms.


Work Cited (Books):

  • Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
  • Lowry, Lois. The Giver.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993.
  • Roth, Veronica. Divergent.HarperCollins, 2011.
  • Orwell, Georgia. 1984.Harvill Secker.1949

In my past experiences reading dystopian novels, I have come to define a dystopia as place designed to be unpleasant and bad in order to explain how we should change our current lifestyle. While this description is widely agreed upon, I believe that a dystopia can also be a place that on the outside seems good. In this case the world may seem fair overall, but as you take a deeper look into the society you find that basic human rights have been stripped from the population. In a dystopia that on the outside looks like a utopia (a good place), people who seem happy and equal are not allowed to think and move freely. They must act in the way their government wants them to. For example, in The Giver, the world the government has created seems happy enough in its uniformity until one finds out about everything the government has withheld from them.

Although dystopias are commonly defined as a place where everything has gone bad, the definition of dystopia can change depending on the type of novel you are reading. For example, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins takes place in a dystopian society, but it also involves aspects of an action/adventure novel and aspects of a romance novel. That being said, The Hunger Games version of a dystopian society might be defined as a society created bad by the interference of government, which ultimately results in a rebellion lead by the people. The action/adventure part comes in to play when the government makes children kill each other during The Hunger Games.  This violence can be seen in the GIF below. It also comes in to play in the series as a whole, when the games cause an uprising in the districts.

In addition, combining the dystopian genre with Young Adult literature changes the definition as well.  A Young Adult novel is aimed at an audience between the ages of 12 – 18. In my past experiences reading young adult novels, I have found that the majority of protagonists have been young adults in these books. With that in mind, when one combines dystopia with Young Adult literature, the rebellion that comes during dystopian novels is usually lead by a young adult. I might define a Young Adult dystopia as a place in which society has been constricted by the government or some other factor, a rebellion occurs to change this, and that rebellion is led by a young adult.



A dystopia is defined as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” The term originated from the word “utopia” which first appeared in a work by Sir Thomas More in 1516. This general genre of writing has been implemented in a variety of different ways, though it often is presented in a sci-fi or post-apocalyptic setting. By the definition, you would view such a world in a negative light, however that’s not necessarily the case. While this may be true in a show like The Walking Dead, where no one remains unaffected by the zombie outbreak, there are cases where a dystopia can be also considered as a utopia. The Giver by Lois Lowry is such a novel where this ‘selective dystopia’ is present. The society itself is presented as utopian, where the citizens live without even the memory of hunger, war, sickness, etc by submitting to very strict regulations by the government and having a single individual bear the burden of negative memories. This begs the question – is a utopian if those living in it is unaware of the dystopian aspects?

YA Dystopia

Young adult literature is made to be consumed by an individual going through a possibly troubled or confusing time in their life as they make the transition out of childhood. YA dystopias often feature individuals similar to ourselves, allowing us to connect to them as they undergo a turning point in their life. The Giver is once again the first novel that comes to mind, as we read about Jonas make the same transition from his utopian childhood to understanding the underlying dystopia in which he lives. A secondary aspect of YA dystopias is that the main character often goes about trying to change or escape the dystopia that they enter into. This could be viewed as an appeal to the minds of the intended audience to not simply accept the world around them, as so many less important characters in the novels appear to do. It encourages them to take control of their lives, and strive to make a change rather than being just another sheep in the flock. Such novels also maintain a sense of ‘light in the darkness’ – no matter how bad the situation is, there is a ray of hope to cling to, perhaps another indication to us readers that no situation is ever truly hopeless. All in all, YA dystopian novels appear to nurture young minds and prepare us for one of the hardest and most drastic transitional periods of our lives.

Works Cited:

“Dystopia.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

“The Giver” Sparknotes, Sparknotes,

To me, dystopia is simply the failure of utopia. I believe that, in literature, a dystopia doesn’t just “exist”, it slowly forms out of the degradation of what was once considered a utopia. Examples of this are Panem in The Hunger Games, the Community in The Giver, and even the island in Lord of the Flies. They all become dystopias in different ways, but all were, at one point, considered utopias.

Panem is described as the futuristic government region that grew out of the ashes of North America. In Panem, citizens are split up into different Districts, each responsible for providing a specific product to the government, the Capitol. There is also new technology, such as cool hovercrafts and super fast trains. While this seems organized and ideal, the districts end up feeling belittled by the Capitol and get sick of constantly feeling as if they’re working only for the rich residents there. This causes the uprising that prefaces the Games themselves.

In The Giver, an “idealistic” community is created where there is little to no human emotion or creativity. The citizens there don’t feel love or sadness, and there is no color. Every citizen is assigned a family and a job. The absence of what I like to call “human variation” makes citizens easy to control and allows for equal distribution of resources, which seems like the solution to most problems I see in the world today. However, the main character Jonas gets a taste of emotion, color, and “true life” (as we know it today) and can never go back to accepting his uniform and bland community. So he leaves to search for a freer world, and it is implied he comes back to “rescue” his family and friends. Here, a utopia doesn’t necessarily “fall” within the pages of the book; but nevertheless a utopia turns into a dystopia, this time through the eyes of a citizen.

In Lord of the Flies, school-age boys are plane-wrecked on an abandoned island. While this may seem like a horror story to some, to the boys this a dream come true. No schoolwork, no nagging parents: just absolute freedom to goof and run around. However, the perils of Mother Nature quickly comes into play and some of the boys realize they would rather be home. The novel soon turns into an ongoing argument between two groups of boys: is this island a utopia or a dystopia? Do they want to rule their new land or be recused?

In each of these novels, a seemingly ideal place (at least to the characters within the story) becomes dangerous or unwelcoming. I believe that the overall message of the dystopian genre is to be careful in the search for perfection: it can come at a cost.