Irony in The Giver

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will look at some ways that Lois Lowry incorporates different types of irony in 'The Giver' to create emphasis to some important points.

A Big Announcement

'Drumroll please....' When making the announcement at a big winner in an award's show or pageant, the drumroll indicates that this is something important. Without the benefit of sound effects, how does an author draw attention to certain points in a novel?

In The Giver by Lois Lowry, a dystopian novel about a community that rejects emotion and memories of human history, the author uses several types of irony to emphasize important points in the story. Let's look at examples of verbal, situational, and dramatic irony in this story.

The Twin's Release

When the main character, Jonas, reacts to the news that his father will soon be releasing a twin is an example of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when irony occurs because the character is unaware of important information.

Fairly early in the story, the reader begins to suspect that 'release' is a euphemism for death, but when Jonas's father is put in the position of release a twin newborn (the community does not approve of duplicate people), Jonas imagines where he might go: 'he had wondered what lay Elsewhere. Was there someone there, waiting, who would receive the tiny released twin? Would it grow up Elsewhere, not knowing, ever, that in this community lived a being who looked exactly the same?'

Never having imagined that his father, the Nurturer, is capable of murder, Jonas is shocked when he sees that it entails his father alone in a room with the baby applying a lethal injection into the baby's skull and then throwing it down a garbage chute. In this example, dramatic irony draws attention to a shocking flaw in the community's operation that serves as a turning point for Jonas.

Twins are not part of the culture where Jonas lives.

Jonas's Assignment

Jonas's Ceremony of Twelve is an example of situational irony. Situational irony is when an action occurs that is the opposite of what you would expect. When Jonas's name is not called in order during his Ceremony of Twelve when he is scheduled to receive his adult job, Jonas and the rest of the community are mortified. 'He didn't dare to turn and find his parents in the crowd. He couldn't bear to see their faces darkened with shame.' Jonas is sure he must have done something terrible.

When the Chief Elder comes back to him, she apologizes and explains, 'Jonas has not been assigned,…Jonas has been selected.' Jonas is not in trouble, he was placed in a rare, but prestigious position among the community elders because of his intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and ability to 'see beyond.' The honor itself is ironic, since the job is to hold all the pain and emotion that the community has rejected. Irony in this example draws emphasis to the 'honor' in Jonas's adult job assignment.

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