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Study Guide: The Giver: Analysis


Where It All Goes Down

An Isolated "Community" Sometime In The Future

Yeah, our description is pretty vague... but so is the setting in The Giver.

We can't be sure when the story goes down, but since the memories of a distant past correspond to our world today, we conclude that it is, in fact, some time in the future. Read more...



Narrator point of view

Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

The Giver is told in the third person, but focuses exclusively on Jonas. We know what he's thinking and feeling, and we don't enter into anyone else's head. The narrative often just goes into telling mode, giving us the background info we need about the way things work in the community, but just as often we get the info in a contrived, "Jonas is thinking about this" sort of way.

So it's not the most elegant device in the world, but it gets the job done. As far as Jonas being our protagonist, this is a great choice of narrative voice, since it really gets the reader invested in the novel's hero.

Writing Style and Language


Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Seductive (Lowry's Words, Not Ours)

Lois Lowry explains in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech that she tried to "seduce" the reader. No, not that way—get your minds out of the gutter, Shmoopers...more...




Everybody likes ribbons, but in this story ribbons are another symbolic reminder of the way in which individuality is tied up and sameness promoted. All females under nine must have their hair in ribbons and tied neatly.  Lily does not like the ribbons that keep her hair back; they always seem to come untied by the end of the day, and she even gets in trouble for having them that way.  Having your hair down is a visual reminder of the individuality and strength of the human spirit, a spirit that is tied back and put away in this colorless community.


“Mirrors were rare in the community…” Mirrors represent a number of different things. When it comes to this story, mirrors are not used because they are a means to look at ourselves and our behavior; a means to see if what we see is good and actions right—they give us a way to make accurate judgments against the image we see.  In this community everyone is the same, and the sameness tends to blur the idea of right and wrong that a mirror put up to the community would reveal. 


An apple is a significant symbol in the story because it represents the point in which Jonas realizes that something has “changed” in his world.  The dramatic color red makes a brief appearance and foreshadows the appearance of more knowledge in his life.  The symbol of the apple also makes reference to the fruit in the Garden of Eden in which the apple again represents knowledge. Read full Metaphor Analysis





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