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Pulling on a thread in another featurette of 'The Giver'



It is reassuring to seeing Lois Lowry in this featurette because it reminds me how involved she was in the film. Bringing novels to the bring screen is always risky, especially when it is like The Giver—not only beloved by a generation of readers (of which I am one) but a story woven rich with themes, questions, metaphors and characters that speak directly into our own lives and culture.
This featurette pulls on several of those rich threads, one of which is: What do we do with the pain and suffering we experience in life and cause each other? What if everything that caused us pain could be erased or controlled?
In a Wall Street Journal interview with Sohrab Ahmari, Lowry reflected on how she came up with the idea for The Giver. She was going through a difficult time in her life, and coming home from a visit with her aging parents in their nursing home. Her mother often wanted to talk about Lowry’s sister Helen, who had died young; her father, whose memory was failing, alternatively couldn’t remember Helen or what happened to her and had to be told over and over again.
“When I was driving back to the airport that day,” Lowry reflects, “I began to think about that, the way a writer does: Well, what if you could manipulate human memory, so that people didn't have to remember bad stuff that had ever happened? Wouldn't that be nice—and comfortable? By the time I got home, I had formulated the beginning of a book."
At first it does seem idealic, but The Giver explores the disturbing consequences of such a choice, not only for an individual but for a community. In attempting to remove pain, loss, hatred, and enmity, we also lose joy, compassion, and love (which, we know from our Story to be a most transformative and saving power).
Part of the power of The Giver is the way Lowry leads us down a road with which we flirt in our culture. Gradually we begin to understand just how horrific those consequences are—so horrific, in fact, that some people think the novel is not appropriate for children to read.
So why read stories like that? I resonate with and appreciate the way Lowry expresses an answer to that question in her response to censorship efforts surrounding her novel:
"That's the irony of it," Ms. Lowry says. "In talking to people about censorship, and the fact that there've been attempts to censor this book . . . the people who bring the challenges, they do so with the best of intentions. They really want to protect their children. I have children. I have grandchildren. I would love to protect them from everything as well. 
"But it's the wrong way of going about it. The best way to prepare them for the world that they face is to present what the possibilities are and to let them be scared of what might happen." She adds: "I think that's really what literature does in every realm. You rehearse your life by reading about what happens to other people."
That’s what good stories do: give us the opportunity to walk down a road of possibility and explore what might happen to the world—and to us. It reveals key truths about the world we live in, the people around us and ourselves. The really good ones? They even change the way we see and act in the world. And stories like that intersect with our own Story in ways that help us see more clearly. But I will save that for the film, because if it gives us the spirit of Lowry’s story, it’ll do just that—and that will bring God-talk into open spaces.

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