Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Matched and The Giver

     I absolutely love both of these books.  I happened to be reading The Giver with my students at the same time I read Matched.  They were interesting books to pair together because they had many of the same themes and questions to ponder.
     Cassia is the heroine in Matched.  She is the perfect daughter, student and citizen.  She knows who she will marry, what her job will be, and that she will die on her 80th birthday.  It all seems so organized and perfect for society.  Cassie never thinks to question the society or her place in it.  Jonas is the hero in The Giver.  Though younger than Cassia, Jonas is also a perfect son, student, and citizen.  He is told what job he will hold, who he will marry and when he will die.  They are both given pills to suppress their desires and emotions.  Both societies are very controlling, but tell everyone it is for their own good.
     Throughout both books, Cassia and Jonas learn of the horrors behind their perfect societies.  Cassia learns the society is not as ideal as it pretends to be - beginning with her grandfather's death.  Cassie learns about the flaws of her society slowly, so it is harder to feel her rage.  Jonas is forced to learn quickly and brutally as he discovers memories and emotions that he must take on for the good of the society.  I will never forget the scene in The Giver when Jonas watched his father "release" the twin baby.  It was horrifying and made me unerstand the horrors of this ideal society.  Cassia didn't experience any horrific moments like Jonas, so it was more difficult for me to see her society as "dangerous."
     Both of the books made me think in new ways.  Matched made me wonder about why we choose the people we love.  Is there one love for all of us that is our perfect match or is there always another person?  By choosing one, do we set a new set of choices in motion or is fate still set because someone knew what we would choose?  What about my job?  Why did teaching always seem like such a certainty?  In our rush to make everything less offensive to everyone, how much do we lose?  Which songs or poems or paintings or books would make the cut?  How much of ourselves would we lose in the choosing or later in the limitations that remain?
     The Giver made me wonder about the euphemisms we use to hide the brutal truth of our lives.  What happens if we lose our memories?  What is wisdom?  When we turn over the hard parts of our lives: war and death and suffering and loss, do we lose our best parts?  Without suffering, can we understand joy?  Without loss, can we understand love?  What makes us human?  In giving up our wisdom, do we lose our capacity to make life-changing decisions humanely?  Is this worth the cost of the hard parts of our lives?  What are we willing to sacrifice for the greater good?  What are we unwilling to sacrifice of ourselves?
     Both of these books are thought-provoking and poignant.  Although both books are easy to read, to enjoy the deeper meanings and questions, I recommend both books to advanced readers.

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