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Page to Screen Vol 1: The Giver

One of my favorite and most annyoing things in the world are film adaptations of books I loved. I've started a page to screen series as there are more and more books being adapted to the screen. I'm starting the first one of the series with The Giver, as I will be watching the movie tonight.

I was also fortunate enough to co-teach this controversial and previously banned book to seventh grade class with mixed English proficiencies.

I just wanted to go over what the book was aobut now and the compare it to the showing later.

The book centers around an eleven-year-old boy named Jonas. The food for the community he lives in is brought in by air plane. Even though the rules prohibit pilots flying over the community, one did and he was "released" as a punitive measure. After a person makes three mistakes, they are released from the community. No one knows what happens when you are released, just that you are no longer seen again.

Let’s get some of the rules of the community out of the way:

  1. It is against the rules for pilots to fly over the community

  2. Only two children per family are allowed (p. 8, 111)

  3. People are "released" after three mistakes

  4. Eights (eight year olds) must give up their "comfort object"(p. 18)

  5. Ones (one year olds) receive a name and are given to a family

  6. Birthmothers work as such only for three years and are thenLaborers

  7. Eights are given freedom of choice for volunteering (p. 26, 97)

  8. Don't brag (p. 27)

  9. Don't look at someone naked, unless you are helping a baby or the elderly bathe (p. 30)

  10. Dream-telling begins with Threes (three year olds)

  11. Stirrings must be reported in order for treatment to take place

  12. People are not allowed to read books

  13. Citizens can't leave their dwellings at night

Jonas lives with his mom, dad and little sister, Lily. His father works with babies and concerned about the health of one of the babies he's working with. He ends up bringing the baby home with him for specialized care.

While playing with his friend one day, Jonas notices that somehow the apple they were tossing around had changed, but he was the only one who saw it.

Another common practice in the community is to tell your dreams in the morning to your family. When Jonas’s dream revealed that he was going through puberty; he was experiencing the Stirrings, his parents knew it was time to give him the pills meant to suppress what he was feeling. The pills not only suppress the Stirrings, but also the ability to dream for Jonas.

Every year, the community holds the Ceremony of Twelve. The Ceremony makes it socially acceptable to recognize differences among the children, but only during the Ceremony. Twelve year olds find out when and what their Assignments (jobs) will be. During the Ceremony, Jonas is skipped by the Chief Elder and it is revealed at the end that he will be the new Receiver of Memory. It is revealed that a decade ago, the last child chosen to be a Receiver of Memory failed. The Chief Elder goes on to explain the desirable traits shown in Jonas and how his courage will be essential as he will experience pain, something no one has experienced and that he has the Capacity to See Beyond.

The book takes off from there. Jonas then begins his lessons with the current Receiver informs him that his duty is to give Jonas all of his memories, memories from the community, memories from generations of Receivers. He tells Jonas about how Sameness was safe and it kept people safe as well as them living in peace and order. Jonas is then told to refer to him as the Giver.

The memories the Giver gives Jonas in the beginning is of sunshine and color as the community is only seen in black and white for everyone else. He then gives Jonas the memory of pain. He gives Jonas other memories as well: overpopulation, famine, hunger, drought, war, battle and death. It is then that Jonas stops taking his pills and his rebellion only grows.

When Jonas sees a baby be released because it was unhealthy, he knew that the same fate would await the baby his father was taking care of and couldn’t let it happen. He grabs a bicycle and the two set off for a new life. Anytime the baby would cry, Jonas would give him a happy memory to appease the child. Then they hear music…and the book ends.

Given all of the visual aspects described in the book, it is no wonder why Jeff Bridges wanted this turned into a film so badly. The story describes the problem with sameness, the issues that may cause social and economic collapse, as well as over/self-medicating to evade one’s feelings and how rebellion may not necessarily be a bad thing, especially if you’re fighting to your identity or save an innocent. I really enjoyed this book and am curious to see how it plays out on film. I’m curious to see who Meryl Streep is playing and if they’ve made her some crazed Chief Elder. I hope not too much was altered in the adaption, but as long as the film keeps the major themes, then it will get the message across.

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