The day after we watched the Handmaid's Tale, we started to analyse chapters one and two of The Giver. I was quite surprised by the number of features of Jonas' society that could be identified just from these two chapters. I was really impressed by how much we could actually get out about Jonas' community just from the incident of the unidentified aircraft. Much was revealed about Jonas' society from the account of the unidentified aircraft, leaving me rather surprised and satisfied at the same time.
In the book, Jonas reflects on the time when a sleek, needle-nosed, unidentified jet had flown over the community, leaving everyone stunned and confused. It was later announced by the Speaker that it was a pilot-in-training who had misread his navigational instructions and had flown over the community by mistake. The Speaker also informed the community that he would have to be released.
There are several features of Jonas' society that can be seen from the briefly accounted incident. Firstly, Jonas' society is a protected and sheltered society. The reaction of the people to the unidentified aircraft, was of pure terror and fright. They had never seen a plane fly over the community since it was against the rules to do so. Their reaction to something seemingly insignificant to the reader, shows that they are not exposed to many things and hence are thrown into confusion at the slightest incident. From this incident, it can also be seen that the community is a very enclosed community. It is one that keeps to itself, and is almost reclusive and isolated in nature. Hence, due to this fact that they are very isolated and alone, the people were in a state of panic at the sight of an unfamilar aircraft.
Secondly, it can be seen that the government in Jonas' community has tight control over its people. When the Speaker had barked out the order for everyone to leave their bicycles where they were and head for the nearest building, the people adhered to the orders in a swift and prompt manner. They were willing and unquestioning, following the order of the Speaker obediently. This shows that there has been a cultivated and learnt obedience in the people of the community. No one questions when an order is made. This is uncanny, especially in our modern world, where people do certainly question many of the laws and actions of the government. They fire various questions at the government for them to answer, and only if the answer is satisfactory do these people decide to let it rest. However, it is very much the opposite in the book, where the people never ever question anything done by the government. This can be seen the further parts of the book as well, where the people follow the rules strictly. Asher does his Standard Apology Phrase in front of the class, Jonas apologises to the Recreation Director for taking an apple home and the community engages in the Evening Telling of Feelings and Dream telling. Never does anyone question the need for the various rituals and rules. Hence, this blind adherence to the rules has transformed the people into robots without minds of their own to discern if the rules are good or bad.
Lastly, Jonas' society is a harsh society, as seen from the event. The pilot-in-training who had read his navigational instructions wrongly was released. Hence, it can been seen that the society Jonas lives in is unforgiving. There are no such thing as second chances in his community. Wrong doings cannot be erased or forgotten and the penalty must be paid for breaking a rule. There is no such thing as forgiveness. In the strive for perfection, it can be seen that people who are deemed less than perfect, which includes making mistakes, are meted out the worst possible punishment of being released. Release in this case is a utter disgrace and a shameful thing.
The society in the book, because of its strive for perfection, is unable to accept anyone who is less than perfect. Hence, this also relates to the release of newborns. Newborns who are released are usually those that are not progressing as well as they should be, one such example being Gabriel. Just like other problematic newborns, Gabriel does not meet the expectations of the Nurturers. He has not reached the right size and weight. He is not growing as well as he should be and is also unable to sleep soundly at night. These problems deem Gabriel as less than perfect because he does not meet the high standards set. Thus, the committee of Nurturers intended to release him. In this way, it can be seen that even for newborns, there is a level of perfection expected, and when a newborn falls short of this level of perfection, they are released.
Other than these qualities of Jonas' society, there are many more, based on other events and features. They are qualities that I would not have been able to identify myself, if I were to analyse the chapters all by myself!
Jonas' society is a ritualistic society. In his society, there are alot of practices and rituals involved in the people's daily life. For example, there are the various ceremonies held in December, the evening telling of feelings and dream-telling. There are also many social conventions such as the standard apology phrase and the emphasis of precision of language, which has caused the people to speak in a certain way. The people's lives are surrounded by many conventions and customs. They attend the ceromonies every year without fail, and go through the telling of feelings and dreams everyday. Hence, they live in a ritualistic world, where every aspect of life has certain rituals that must be followed.
Also, Jonas' society is a detached society. Normal objects are called by different names. For example, instead of them calling the place they live in as their "home", they call it their "dwelling". This takes away the warmth from the word "home" and replaces it with a cold and distant word, "dwelling". The people also have identification numbers. Jonas' number is eleven-nineteen. This shows how cold and detached Jonas' society is, so much so that the society has become robotic, with identification numbers that tag them. The people are like objects, given numbers to represent themselves.
Lastly, there is a great dillution of human emotions in Jonas' society. The people in Jonas' society are assigned spouses, which have been carefully matched according to many aspects such as temperament and intelligence. The people believe that because the choices are so carefully made, the match that they are in must be perfect, and do not consider their own feelings towards their assigned spouse. A lady might be paired with a man which she did not even know existed! Since they are placed in a spousal relationship, not having naturally fallen in love and decide to get married, there is no effort on the part of both parties to cultivate the relationship as it has already been created for them. They can take each other for granted as they donot have the experience of dating or being in a relationship with this person they are assigned to.
In addition, the couples have to apply for children, which are given birth to by Birthmothers. Couples donot fall in love, decide to get married and have children. They are placed in a relationship, and then are given the chance to apply for children. Hence, there is a dillution of human relationships between parents and children because they are not biologically related, children being not of their parents' own flesh and blood. They are the children of different mothers.
Hence, it can be seen from all the qualities, that Jonas' society is on the whole, a very inhuman, mechanic and robotic society. People go about their lives without thinking because everything has been placed and arranged perfectly for them to go about their business. They do their daily activities out of a cultivated habit, things done so many times that they donot think about it anymore. If the author had not described the people as human beings, I am sure the reader might have thought she was writing about robots!