20 February 2009

To Care About What Happens

From Lois Lowry's blog earlier this week:

I often receive emails from kids, usually for school assignments, with questions like "What did you intend for readers to get out of (title)?" or "What is the message of this book?"

And sometimes I sigh and try to reply with an answer that they can use in their term paper or exam. But what I really want to say is: I simply wanted the reader to enjoy the story. To love the characters. To care about what happens. To be scared, or sad, or angry, and to worry. To be excited in the middle of the book, and relieved at the end.
Discuss, with particular reference to the end of The Giver. Did you feel relieved? Did you feel a sense of hope?

(Tip from Jan Fields at the ICL.)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sense of hope? The Giver? Umm, no. I wept, because I didn't believe there was really any place for them to flee to.

- Kriz

Emily said...

I don't personally feel a sense of hope at the end of The Giver, I think because the ending is very much focused on the fate of Jonas and Gabriel, whereas by that point I'm less invested in them than in the fate of the community. I've always wished for a sequel, or at least an epilogue, about how the community deals with its forced reassumption of the memories - what are people's reactions, how do they come to terms (or not) with the changes, how do they restructure their society...

J. L. Bell said...

That's an interesting approach to The Giver. My response was to write off that community as a lost cause, unlikely to reform, quite likely to fall apart without a new Giver, and beyond my sympathy.

As for Jonas and Gabriel, their fate seems ambiguous. I understand that Jonas appears in a couple of Lowry's later books, grown up. However, some readers, such as Roger Sutton, think it's clear he dies at the end of The Giver. There are over 1,400 hits for a Google search of "giver" and "does jonas die".

Wendy said...

A librarian said to me recently that she finds "adults think he's committing suicide, kids think he's gotten to a new place". I knew about the controversy, but had never heard it expressed with that dichotomy--but it makes sense to me. When The Giver came out, I was a kid and my older sister was an adult. We read it at the same time. I said something about Jonas getting to safety; she said "What are you talking about? He killed himself and the baby."

I felt uneasy at the end of The Giver, despite thinking that he got to "safety"; I wondered what would happen to him and the baby, and I remember specifically thinking that he was going to be sad to find out that even in the "real" world, he, Jonas, wasn't going to have any grandparents. Sense of hope? No, it seemed pretty bleak, kind of like the aftermath-of-WWII memoirs I was reading at around the same time.

wrigleyfield said...

Wow, I read The Giver many times as a child, and always found the ending hopeful; the suicide interpretation had certainly never occurred to me.

I was always a huge fan of The Giver and of Gathering Blue, but Messenger, where she tries to tie them together, is kind of sucky.

J. L. Bell said...

I don’t recall thinking of the suicide possibility myself. But I did think it ambiguous about whether Jonah had found his way to a new community or was dying.

Amy Planchak Graves said...

I was relieved at the end of The Giver, but mostly because I was able to end my preoccupation of the status of the baby's diaper after that trek that lasted multiple days...but this is coming from someone who, as a kid, used to worry about the fact that characters in books never seemed to take bathroom breaks. As for the end of the story, it seemed intentionally inconclusive, so I figured I wasn't supposed to know what happened, and never lost sleep over it. I've read Messenger, though, so my understanding of what happened is now informed by that.