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Rules and Order
Two children – one male, one female – to each family unit. It was written very clearly in the rules. (1.57)
While the community in The Giver may seem ideal at first, it's information like this that makes us a little nervous. Rules and order have stifled and controlled what we think of as spontaneous, emotional, and personal: family, sex, desire, marriage, and love.
Next, Mother, who held a prominent position at the Department of Justice, talked about her feelings. Today a repeat offender had been brought before her, someone who had broken the rules before. Someone who she hoped had been adequately and fairly punished, and who had been restored to his place: to his job, his home, his family unit. To see him brought before her a second time caused her overwhelming feelings of frustration and anger. And even guilt, that she hadn't made a difference in his life. (1.59)
The community has turned rule enforcement into a collective, communal activity. Jonas's Mother even feels personally responsible for another's transgression.
Jonas laughed. It was one of the few rules that was not taken very seriously, and it was almost always broken. The children all received their bicycles at Nine; they were not allowed to ride bicycles before then. But almost always, the older brothers and sisters had secretly taught the younger ones one. Jonas had been thinking already about teaching Lily. (2.17)
Jonas recognizes that some rules are frivolous, but he still takes his cue on how to act from those around him. He's fine with breaking the bike rule because everyone else does it, but he doesn't break the naked rule, which he finds equally useless.
Everyone had known, he remembered with humiliation, that the announcement ATTENTION. THIS IS A REMINDER TO MALE ELEVENS THAT OBJECTS ARE NOT TO BE REMOVED FROM THE RECREATION AREA AND THAT SNACKS ARE TO BE EATEN, NOT HOARDED had been specifically directed at him, the day last month that he had taken an apple home. No one had mentioned it, not even his parents, because the public announcement had been sufficient to produce the appropriate remorse. He had, of course, disposed of the apple and made his apology to the Recreation Director the next morning, before school. (3.20)
The community relies on embarrassment to enforce its rules; we see that laws themselves are not enough, but require the collective support of those they are controlling.
And the nakedness, too. It was against the rules for children or adults to look at another's nakedness; but the rule did not apply to newchildren or the Old. Jonas was glad. It was a nuisance to keep oneself covered while changing for games, and the required apology if one had by mistake glimpsed another's body was always awkward. He couldn't see why it was necessary. He liked the feeling of safety here in this warm and quiet room; he liked the expression of trust on the woman's face as she lay in the water unprotected, exposed, and free. (4.22)
That the elderly and the very young are exempt from certain rules is another testament to their being separated from the community.
"That's all," she replied, returning the bottle to the cupboard. "But you mustn't forget. I'll remind you for the first weeks, but then you must do it on your own. If you forget, the Stirrings will come back. The dreams of the Stirrings will come back. Sometimes the dosage must be adjusted." (5.41)
Look at the kinds of feelings and actions the rules of the community are aimed to control. Laws like this one about stopping sexual urges are particularly alarming for us to read; Lowry is manipulating the way we see Jonas' community.
Instead, as a result of Father's plea, Gabriel had been labeled Uncertain and given the additional year. He would continue to be nurtured at the Center and would spend his nights with Jonas's family unit. Each family member, including Lily, had been required to sign a pledge that they would not become attached to this little temporary guest, and that they would relinquish him without protest or appeal when he was assigned to his own family unit at next year's Ceremony. (6.19)
Here we see even more control over basic human emotions. That such a pledge—to not become attached to an infant—is even possible makes us question how altered the citizens have been by their upbringing.
The Giver's face took on a solemn Look. "I wish they wouldn't do that," he said quietly, almost to himself.
"Well, they can't have two identical people around! Think how confusing it would be!" Jonas chuckled. (19.3-4)
Jonas calls the twin situation "confusing," but is this really why the community has the second twin expelled?
Learn more about the theme of Rules and Order in The Giver.
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