Stirrings in The Giver

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  • 0:04 The Wold of ''The Giver''
  • 0:47 The 'Stirrings'
  • 2:48 Significance of the…
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

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

Imagine a world without deep love or affection. A world without traditional marriages or families. This is the world of 'The Giver'. This lesson explains the role of the 'stirrings' and how the government controls these feelings.

The World of The Giver

Imagine a world where people do not fall in love with each other. People do not go on dates, and they certainly do not spend years trying to find 'the one.' Instead, when they're old enough, they apply to the government for a husband or wife. If they want kids and family, they have to apply to the government for that too. The government even designates citizens' career paths. Does any of this sound strange to you?

The world in The Giver is much different than the world you live in. In The Giver, by Lois Lowry, relationships are purely functional. People get married to share a home with someone and to raise kids so that they, too, can be productive people. None of this has anything to do with love. But why is this the case? It has everything to do with the 'stirrings.'

The 'Stirrings'

Have you ever had a crush on someone at school? Maybe you couldn't stop staring at them in class, or you had butterflies in your stomach when you sat next to them or talked to them. That nervous feeling is exciting; it makes you happy. In the world of The Giver, that feeling does not exist. In fact, the government actually works to eliminate it all together, but why?

These feelings of attraction, desire, and affection are referred to as the 'stirrings'. You first learn about the 'stirrings' in Chapter 5. Every morning, Jonas and his family eat breakfast and share any dreams they had from the night before. One morning, Jonas wakes up very confused. Usually not much of a dreamer, that night he had a very pleasant, but a very strange dream.

Jonas dreamt that he was with his school friend Fiona in the bathhouse at the old folks' home. In the dream, Jonas had a strong feeling of desire, something he described as 'wanting.' Jonas wanted Fiona to undress and let him bathe her.

After sharing his dream at the table, Jonas's mother sent his little sister to school before talking to him. She explained that that feeling of 'wanting' was something their society called the 'stirrings.' Around the age of 11 or 12 (how old Jonas is), people start to feel that attraction and desire. But not to worry, there was a way to make it stop. Jonas's mother gives him a small pill, something he must take every single day. In fact, after anyone gets the first 'stirrings,' he or she has to take the pill. No exceptions!

Within no time, Jonas can no longer remember how the 'stirrings' felt. He was no longer able to feel that longing and wanting for Fiona. When Jonas learns his career, his life begins to change dramatically. Jonas is charged with receiving all of the memories of humankind from a man he calls the Giver. As the Receiver, Jonas must be able to feel every emotion: joy, pain, love, anger, desire, sadness, etc. The Giver tells him to stop taking the pill so that the 'stirrings' can return.

Significance of the 'Stirrings'

So why exactly would the society in The Giver want to get rid of the 'stirrings'? The society described in the book is a dystopia. In an effort to make their world perfect, the government has taken extreme measures to maintain peace and remove social problems like war or poverty. In their minds, basic human emotions like love or anger are a recipe for conflict. So to fix it, they simply eliminate those feelings.

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