Character isolationism and the struggles surrounding solitude are recurring themes in many great pieces of literature. Lowry’s The Giver is an excellent work of contemporary fiction whose main character, Jonas, struggles with such a burden. In order to properly identify character relationships of isolation, I will compare and contrast The Giver with two other well-known pieces of adolescent literature: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton and Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
Jonas, in The Giver, views his hometown as the perfect place, a utopia that is self-contained and free of ruinous element such as conflict, illness, divorce, and inequality. He comes from a loving, demonstrative family unit: father, mother, one brother, one sister. Everyone in his hometown fits this perfectly balanced poster-family mold. It’s a gift-wrapped location to raise a family, or so we are led to believe. His family, as are all families in this utopia-like society, has good communication methods and are supportive of one another.
Lowry creates such a background to impact his theme of a protagonist teetering into the realm of isolationism. The author uses the omniscient point of view of Jonas throughout the story. As the reader envisions the story solely through Jonas, we see his family is supposed shares their feelings and emotions when issues arise. It’s almost too perfect. Yet perfection diminishes when we discover, through foreshadowing, that a certain pilot who was in a plane crash was to be “released from the community. ” The speaker’s voice takes the situation lightly, even with a hint of humor—a marker that something is amiss.
One of the main themes in The Giver is individuality verses conformity. This parallels Jonas’s struggles with isolationism. Lowry leads us to believe in this utopia. Yet, as Jonas and other children freely choose jobs to increase their own knowledge base, it becomes apparent that the Elders have another purpose for them. The Elder will be choosing what direction their future will go once they are twelve years-old. Later, Jonas shares a provocative dream he had about Fiona. Jonas is pleased with the pleasure his dream brings to him.
Lowry wrote, And the nakedness, too. It was against the rules for children or adults to look at another’s nakedness; but the rule did not apply to newchildren or the Old. (p. 30) This statement speaks volumes about the sexual racism and tensions that were prevalent in the society of The Giver which can be compared to the pressures that revolved around the status of wealth in The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye. The Giver’s protagonist accepts this rule as Lowry responds to the rule against seeing other people naked. Jonas was glad.
It was a nuisance to keep oneself covered while changing for games, and the required apology if one had by mistake glimpsed another’s body was always awkward. (p. 30) The author gives us subtle hints of Jonas’s isolation that is to come. He liked the safety here in this warm and quiet room (p 30) According to the Elders ‘touching’ other people outside of one’s immediate family was deemed rude and inappropriate behavior. His mother informs him that he’ll be taking a pill to help him. This is one more way for the Elders to control their youth. In event, this leads to Jonas into isolationism.
Jonas begins to feel sad. When Gabe is actually allowed to live with Jonas’s family, the community sets boundaries. Gabe can stay but they are not allowed to become emotionally attached to him. The communities’ means of controlling its people sinks Jonas further into isolation. Jonas speaks with the Chief Elder in chapter eight, bringing to light the impact of his isolation. The Chief Elder says, “But you will be faced now,” she explained gently, “with pain of a magnitude that none of us here can comprehend because it’s beyond our experience…. So, because the Elders, hid their true motive, children are torn emotionally from what was to be a perfect life. When we consider the novel, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton we find many parallels with The Giver. Both have themes centered on isolationism and what sort of grave effects it can have on an individual, a family, or a town. There are also contrasting differences in these two novels. Both of which will be discussed in detail. The Outsiders is a story of two teenage gangs: the socs and the greasers. This novel is a classic East versus West scenario in a small Oklahoma town in the 1960’s.
The soc’s—which is an abbreviation for socials—is a gang of affluent teenage hoodlums that drive fast cars, get the pretty girls, and have the social markings of upper class due to their family’s economic status. The greasers are the gang of teenage boys that come from the lower class, most being raised in broken homes where mom or dad—or sometimes neither parent—is around to provide guidance. One contrasting difference here is the fact that The Giver opens with families living in a utopia-like geographic area where every single family fits the perfect family unit of a father, mother, and two siblings.
This family unit is structured with communication skills as well where issues are discussed on a daily basis. There are no racial tension or inequality issues to speak of in The Giver, either. S. E. Hinton, on the other hand, creates a real-life scenario that parallel’s lifestyles in Oklahoma in the 1960’s—which is when the book was written by an actual teenager. Thus, The Outsiders displays how dysfunctional families operate. There is constant conflict among siblings and taunting between the greasers and the socs. Being in a gang instantly offers the teenage-societies an extended family.
They trust one another and wound die for each other. The families within the gang understand one another because they can relate to one another’s pain and suffering. Even when they are faced with such constant emotional struggles, physical entanglements, and trouble with law enforcement, the gang members are on the same wave-length and follow one another. In The Giver, the families live in an apparent pristine environment that directly opposes this. The parents and children form proper communication channels by discussing issues at dinnertime.
Some of the characters in the Outsiders are lucky if they get dinner every night. Yet, the path of isolationism for Jonas is the genesis for the character’s circumstances. He cannot free himself of this downward spiral, even when he’s placed in such a positive environment. S. E. Hinton, on the other hand, displays characters coming together in the worst of times. Another parallel, in The Outsiders, ties into the issue of separation from family. Here, teens are often led to see things as only right or wrong. But, as we know, circumstances in life are rarely black and white.
Too many intricacies are involved when teens are struggling to survive and discover their way to be viewed as simply all-right or all-wrong. The protagonists in both Hinton’s and Lowry’s novel have underlying subplots of youths trying to discover their place in life. Another comparison is the fact that both authors play into the common-knowledge ideal that says, life isn’t fair. Whether life is fair to the soc’s or the greasers is seen differently. The soc’s desire the glamour and status that goes along with their affluent upbringing.
The greasers, on the other hand, desire a different image. They don’t want to be associated with the upper crust of society. According to a greaser, the money, clothes, and cars, are the last thing they’d ever view as a priority in life. In fact, they despise them, mainly for how society treats the lower class. However, both gangs are products of a lifestyle where parental upbringing doesn’t show respect to their children because parents are unwilling to listen to the youth’s ideas, desires, and needs. These are the precise components that led to Jonas’s separation from the family unit.
In the novel, Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, we find similar connections in the background of each story. Both novels depict a protagonist coming from an affluent upbringing. Salinger’s novel is set in a post World War II time when the nation was trying to make a financial recovery. Holden goes to a private school and money is of no concern to him, his family, or his immediate peer group. The breadwinner in Catcher in the Rye, Holden’s father, is a corporate attorney that is only interested in money, golf, and fancy toys such as classy cars.
Freedom from financial concerns is a comparative attribute for Holden and Jonas. Holden and his father don’t understand one another which can be compared to Jonas and a discussion he has with the Elders in Chapter 20. “What about you? Do you lie to me, too? ” Jonas almost spat the question at The Giver. “I am empowered to lie. ” This grave scene in The Giver brings to light how painful an entire childhood can be. It’s the parents and Elders were not true to their children and thus impacts the life of our protagonist.
Holden’s father is also blinded by money and his status as a corporate lawyer. This puts barriers up between him and his son. These barriers are like lying to Holden, causing him harm as he tries to find his place in society. Just as Jonas is the protagonist and narrator, Holden is also the narrator and protagonist of Catcher in the Rye. The impact of the stories theme and character relationships in both stories can be felt on a deeper level when we experience the story solely through the protagonist’s eye. Another contrasting element between the protagonists for S.
E. Hinton and J. D. Salinger is how the characters are introduced to the story. It is very clear that Holden is struggling with life. He is 16 years-old with partially gray hair, thin, and out of shape. He smokes cigarettes as well. Jonas, on the other hand, is raised in this Eden-like village where everyone moves through life free of stress and ailments. Furthermore, Holden is an angry teen who is very confused and depressed. He also displays characteristics of bigotry which contrasts Jonas’s lifestyle of equality.
Holton, however, is an evil person but he can be kind and even thoughtful which matches the characteristic expectations of the children in The Giver. In fact, almost every person had similar physical features as can be seen in the following citation: Almost every citizen in the community had dark eyes. His parents did, and Lily did, and so did all of his group members and friends (p. 20). Yet a distinction is drawn in Jonas as the author followed the above citation with this: But there are a few exceptions: Jonas, himself, and a female Five who he had noticed the different, lighter eyes.
Thus, we are given hints of Jonas’s differences. This contrasts the obvious struggles that are in Holton’s persona. As I looked collectively at the comparisons and contrasting differences between The Giver and the two other novels, I found the likenesses to be more apparent than the differences. Each of the novels under study all had a theme of isolationism. On top of this, the protagonists and most of the minor characters in all the novels were children and young adults who struggled with loss, depression, conflict, and illness.
Each story brought the reality of separation and isolationism to light as the youth banded together to overcome obstacles. The stories display how great an impact deceit, control, and lack of compassion can have on individuals growing into adulthood. People can shut down and sink into isolation. The burden of all this can either lead people away from following their dreams—sometimes destroying themselves into a pit of isolation. The strong-willed, however, find a way to learn from these challenging situations and discover ways to help themselves so that they, in turn, can help friends and loved ones.
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