Monday, July 19, 2010

"Father? Mother?" Jonas asked tentatively after the evening meal. "I have a question I want to ask you." What is it, Jonas?" his father asked. He made himself say the words, though he felt flushed with embarrassment. He had rehearsed them in his mind all the way home from the Annex. "Do you love me?" There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!" "What do you mean?" Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated."Your father means that you used a very generalised word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete," his mother explained carefully. Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory. "And of course our community can't function smoothly if people don't use precise language. You could ask, 'do you enjoy me?' The answer is 'Yes'," his mother said.

This short extract is a key event in the novel. Jonas had just experienced the Christmas memory and had enjoyed the feelings of warmth and love. "Love" is a very foreign word and concept to him. Never has the word been used before and he had never heard of it. However, he feels the depth and intensity of the emotion called "love" in the Christmas memory and knows the true meaning of the word "love".

This pleasant experience during his training causes him to courageously ask his parents a very simple yet deep question, "Do you love me?". Instead of a straight forward, absolute answer, his parents chatise him for his precision of language, leaving him confused, puzzled and a bit lost. They explain that it is a too generalised word, until it has almost become obsolete. However, that contradicts what Jonas feels about love. To him, love is not generalised, it is filled with meaning because he had felt it in the memory. He questions how can love be a meaningless word. Jonas is sure about this feeling and concept of love and stands by it eventhough he lies and says that he understands why it is inappropriate to use such a word.

This whole event brings out the theme of the unfeeling community in The Giver and the lack of individuality. This event like many others in the book, reinforce the fact that the people in Jonas' community do not have real, deep emotions and hence lack individuality as they donot have feelings. This is a realisation that truly, when the people chose to go to Sameness, they relinquished individual feelings. It stuns Jonas that his parents have such a reaction to the word love because he had experienced it and it has a meaning for him. He knows what love is, unlike the rest of his family unit and community. He feels sad, and alone, being one of the few that can experience real, deep, from-the-heart emotions and not just shallow reactions. He had experienced what love was but is unable to describe or share this wonderful, splendid feeling with others. He believes in the feeling of love and that it is not as obsolete or general as his parents have said it out to be. He believes in the power of love and in its existence.

Also, this short extract from the book, mentions about the 'precision of language'. Precision of language is something that has been practiced and shown throughout the book. Even Jonas is careful about his language, trying to be as precise as possible in his everyday speech. Precision of language is an enforced rule and part of the community's everyday life. Children get called for chatisement if they used the wrong words at play or during lessons and Jonas struggles to describe his feelings in the first chapter of the book. Hence, precision of language is almost a habit and a second nature. The need and importance of precise language has been drilled and ingrained into the people of the community.

However, from this extract, it can be seen that what Jonas' parents describes as being precise language is actually not. In response to Jonas' question, they say that the word "love" is too generalised a word, until it has become almost obsolete. They imply that the word "love" is unprecise. Yet, the reader and Jonas knows how meaningful the word "love" is and how it is not obsolete like it is viewed by Jonas' parents.

Hence, it can be seen that precise language in the community is not precise at all, but rather how the people use the language so that the meanings of the words used are intentionally unclear, not precise. The importance of "precision of language" is actually a way to control the people. The use of "precise language" has contributed to the creation of a robotic, non-human society, where the people function like robots and machines and donot have real feelings.

For example, the family units go through the ritual of "the evening telling of feelings" every evening after the end of the evening meal. This sharing that the community engages in is ironic because the people donot actually have feelings. They had given up feelings when they chose Sameness. This is actually a way that the people can be controlled because their "feelings" and thoughts are not kept privately. It is said in the rules that no one is allowed to keep their feelings to themselves. This means that their "feelings" can be regulated and preventive measures can be taken in case the person is planning to do something foolish as a result of a circumstance or "feeling".

Another example is Jonas' father's title of "Nurturer". It is not precise and rather ironic because a Nurturer is supposed to be one who cares for the well-being of the baby, taking care of its needs, having a nurturing spirit. A nurturer is supposed to be a caretaker of infants, tending to their every need and helping it to survive. Jonas' father does care for infants but he also kills them. Though he takes care of infants, helping them to grow, he is also a muderer who releases babies like the lighter twin. Hence, the word "Nurturer" is not precise since nurturers in Jonas' community do kill innocent baby infants by euthanasia or more appropriately known in this case as 'Infanticide'.

Since precise language in Jonas' community is intentionally made unclear, that means that because of this unclear language they are using, it ensures that no one ever publicly lies as they can mask the lie as precision of language. However, later after witnessing the release of the lighter twin, Jonas realises that his whole community is actually a lie.

Love is a very important thing to me, something I hold very dear. I treasure the love showered on me by my family and friends in church and school. I have a really loving and supportive family that encourages me and supports my decisions and endeavours. My family is quite a loud family and we like to joke around and talk about many unimportant things. We have alot of fun and laughter in my family, and there is never one time where are so formal to one another in our speech. This is unlike Jonas' family in the book whose speech to one another seems so formal and distant and cold. There seems to be no real genuine warmth and ties within the family since they are not related biologically. All the family members seem to be alone and almost separate from each other, not having the connection that I feel with my family.

It really tugged at my heart strings to learn that in the many years of Jonas' life, he has never experienced love and has never even heard of it before. I felt quite a great amount of sympathy for Jonas and how he is deprived of the very feelings I take for granted everyday. For us humans, love is a very important ingredient in a family and for a growth of a child. Without love, a family is meaningless and not actually quite possible. Love helps a child to grow psychologically. It is an important and vital attribute for the psychological and emotional well being of a child. A child deprived of love would turn out differently from one with love. I could never imagine living in a world without feelings and especially love!

Though love is very meaningful, powerful and something to be held dearly and treasured, I do some times think that the word "love" is quite a general word, not obsolete though! I just feel that we use "love" too much and to describe everything. Though there are different kinds of love between different kinds of people, they are all dumped under one big, broad word in the English language called "love".

However, in Greek, love is divided into four different words to describe different kinds of love between different kinds of people. They all mean "love" but yet are different from each other. The four words are Eros, Storge, Agape and Philia. Eros means erotic love and is a more shallow love based solely on sexual attraction. Storge is a kind of love that we can find between members of a family. It is the love of a mother, father, sisters and brothers. It is a much stronger kind of love compared to Eros and it requires commitment. It is a kind of love that causes family members to do all they can to stand behind their families in times of trials and tribulations. Philia is described as being a brotherly love. It does not refer to brothers in a family but more of kinsmenship. It is the kind of love that causes us to want to help our friends and others. However, it is sometimes described as being a selfish love, one that only shows itself when you benefit from showing it. Lastly the most powerful and most commonly heard of love is Agape. It is the highest form of love, one that is unconditional despite the other's flaws and weaknesses. It is a special kind of love that must be cultivated for it to grow and can only be achieved when you put others before yourself.

6 comments Louisa :) A world not ours @ 2:27 AM

A colourless world

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