by Lois Lowry
The Giver Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Now, thinking about the feeling of fear as he pedaled home along the river path, he remembered that moment of palpable, stomach-sinking terror when the aircraft had streaked above. It was not what he was feeling now with December approaching. He searched for the right word to describe his own feeling.
Jonas was careful about language. Not like his friend, Asher, who talked too fast and mixed things up, scrambling words and phrases until they were barely recognizable and often very funny. (1.11-12)
It's lines like this one that make Asher a great foil for Jonas. In this case, the way each boy thinks about language is a great reflection of their larger differences. Jonas is reflective and pensive, but Asher is impulsive and reckless – with language, yes, but also with actions.
"I felt very angry this afternoon," Lily announced. "My Childcare group was at the play area, and we had a visiting group of Sevens, and they didn't obey the rules at all. One of them – a male; I don't know his name – kept going right to the front of the line for the slide, even though the rest of us were all waiting. I felt so angry at him. I made my hand into a fist, like this." She held up a clenched fist and the rest of the family smiled at her small defiant gesture. (1.27)
Jonas will later realize that for all the supposed "precision of language," words that have to do with emotion – in this case, anger – are actually meaningless in his community.
The precision of language was one of the most important tasks of small children. Asher had asked for a smack.
The discipline wand, in the hand of the Childcare worker, whistled as it came down across Asher's hands. Asher whimpered, cringed and corrected himself instantly. "Snack," he whispered.
But the next morning he had done it again. And again the following week. He couldn't seem to stop, though for each lapse, the discipline wand came again, escalating to a series of painful lashes that left marks on Asher's legs. Eventually, for a period of time, Asher stopped talking altogether, when he was a Three. (7.31-33)
It's ironic that corporal punishment is tied to language in The Giver. The entire purpose of "precision of language" should be to avoid conflict and problems, misunderstanding, and even potential violence.