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What Genre is The Giver?

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

In literature, books are broken into different categories based on their similarities. These categories are called genres. Like many novels, ''The Giver'' actually falls into two different genres. This lesson explains the genres of ''The Giver''.

What are Genres?

Take a second to think about food you eat on a daily basis. What categories do these foods fall into? Your first thought might be to categorize what you eat by the time of the day you eat it, like breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. You might have thought about the food you eat in terms of whether it's a fruit, vegetable, grain, meat, or dairy. Food is not the only thing you can sort into various categories, but you probably already knew that!

Literature can be separated into different categories as well, but in the writing world, these categories are referred to as genres. Books are sorted into different genres based on their similarities. For example, fables usually include talking animals and teach a lesson to the reader. Historical fiction, on the other hand, is an imagined story that takes place during a specific point in history.

But what genre does The Giver fall under? Lois Lowry's novel is an excellent example of a novel that falls into two different genres: dystopian literature and science-fiction.

Dystopian Literature

Imagine the future about 200 years from now. How do people dress? What types of jobs do they have? How do they get from place to place? If you're like most people, you can probably picture futuristic fashions and really advanced technology. Maybe instead of cars, people will finally be traveling by personal hovercraft.

For Lois Lowry, her vision of the future is a little bit different. Her novel The Giver depicts a society sometime in the distant future. All people get along. Everyone has a place in the community. No one has to worry about going hungry. There is no war or famine. In fact, there's pretty much no suffering or pain at all. Sounds like a nice place to live, right?

When you look at these basic positives of society in The Giver, it looks like the people might live in a utopia, a perfect place where everything is good and peaceful. Upon closer inspection, however, you start to see that there's something a little off about the society. In an attempt to create a perfect place, the government has taken extreme measures to change and control the way people behave and interact. While general peace and prosperity may seem like a good thing, the novel The Giver is actually an example of dystopian literature, a story where a 'perfect' society has gone completely wrong.

One of the earliest signs that something is amiss in The Giver is the explanation of 'sameness'; everything looks gray and people cannot see the full color spectrum. The climate is always consistent. The people don't have to worry about heavy rains or extreme droughts, blazing heat or frigid cold. Daily life is the same every single day. Nothing unusual ever seems to happen.

People in The Giver are governed by the Committee of Elders, a group of older citizens who make all decisions for society. They make and enforce the laws. They even have the responsibility of selecting a career path for every single person beginning around the age of 12. Can you imagine having someone else pick your job for you at such a young age?

The Committee of Elders also controls marriage and families. Everyone of a certain age takes a special pill to get rid of feelings called the 'stirrings'. The 'stirrings' are feelings of affection, desire, or lust. While these things may feel good in the moment, they can also lead to other negative or destructive emotions like pain or jealousy. To make sure that no one hurts or behaves irrationally, the society in The Giver simply eliminates these feelings. Without love or attraction, there's really no need for people to find their own spouse and there's certainly no urge to have children naturally, so the Committee of Elders simply assigns husbands, wives, and children. The Committee of Elders even chooses a select number of women to have children for the rest of society. That way they can monitor for any genetic defects or irregularities.

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