My Surprising Takeaway From The Giver


The year is 2014 and my husband and I sit down to watch a movie together. We decide to watch The Giver. It’s been several years since I read the book and am curious how I will experience the movie with my new adult perspectives.

We hit play (warning: spoilers ahead!) and watch as Jonas’s world slowly changes. Jonas is used to a world of routine, conformity, rules, sameness. There is no color, no choices, no memory, no climate. People don’t experience feelings beyond a very basic level, or have unique thoughts of their own.

At age 12, Jonas is given the job title of Receiver of Memory. Within the entire city there is only one person who knows life as we know it, the Giver of Memory. His job is to essentially give memories of “real life” to Jonas so that he can help counsel the city.

Jonas eagerly begins to receive these memories. The first memory he experiences is sledding. Everything about it is new and unique from the snow to the hill (hills = another thing they don’t have), to the feeling of being cold, experiencing feelings of having fun… these are all new sensations, and he is excited and awestruck by the experience.

My Surprising Takeaway From The Giver | Duluth Moms Blog

We continue to watch Jonas in his new role as he discovers more about our world as we know it. He experiences dancing, music, laughter.

We see what it is like for him to experience these things for the first time and it amazingly helps the viewer soak in the fact that these are all pretty incredible experiences which we take for granted every single day. It reminds us that the most seemingly ordinary things in life are really beautiful. As Jonas begins learning about our world and gaining memories, he begins to see in color, too. Jonas is excited by all he has experienced he cannot fathom why this was ever taken away and even tries to share the experiences with his friends, who don’t/can’t understand. He is desperate to try to share his new world with at least one other person.

Then one day Jonas receives a memory that’s quite different from the others. He experiences war. It is the first bad memory that he receives and he doesn’t handle it well; he doesn’t want to be the Receiver of Memory anymore.

As I watched, I thought to myself: how could he experience all these amazing things and then give it all up because there’s some bad too?  This one bad memory has made it so that he is willing to live without music and color again. I didn’t understand it.

It wasn’t much later that I learned my six year old son, Caleb, had leukemia (he has since completed treatment and is doing well!). It was a very dark time for me filled with nonstop tears, upset, and prayers as I struggled to process the devastating news. I got a heaping dose of bad feelings.

And yet while I experienced this, I held close to the thoughts that I had during The Giver – that life is great. I kept reminding myself not to be like Jonas. Don’t let the bad things shut me down from good things. It will inevitably happen for moments or periods of time, but I told myself to fight your way out and don’t get lost in the darkness. Life comes with some bad experiences. Life also comes with a lot of amazing experiences. Even simple things like seeing color.

By the end of the movie, Jonas ends up believing that the bad is worth experiencing to experience the good things. In fact, he believes this so passionately that he goes on a long, confusing, and difficult journey to release the memories back to his world which will allow them to experience all the things that were robbed from them before – love, emotions, color – and yes – fear, pain, and hardships too. He decides that it’s worth it and that the people will agree once they see what they are missing.

My Surprising Takeaway From The Giver | Duluth Moms Blog

Life isn’t always perfect. Life can be hard, unfair, and downright cruel sometimes, but Jonas reminded me that while life isn’t always great, there is a lot of greatness in it regardless. Jonas reminded me to try not to let the bad moments shut me down from the good moments, to find beauty in the dissonance, to not to let an experience of pain prevent me from experiencing music.