Title: The Giver vs. Anthem
Author: Lois Lowry vs. Ayn Rand
Genre: Dystopian Novel
Quotation: “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” The Giver vs. “My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.” Anthem
Would recommend to: readers who like to think about the past.
Dystopian novels have always intrigued me. I find it compelling that people would right novels about what is wrong with the world to prove what humans should change about their patterns to avoid this type of world in the future. It’s a bit like reverse psychology; rather than tell people what they should do, tell them what they should not do. Two novels I read while I was in school, “The Giver” by Lois Lowry and “Anthem” by Ayn Rand, encompass the idea of a communist dystopia.
Here’s a synopsis of each novel:
The Giver: Jonas lives in a world where pain, fear and hatred do not exist. Without these elements, emotions such as love and happiness are also absent. There is no prejudice or competition. Children are born from designated birthing mothers and raised by pseudo parents before they are assigned to families that have submitted applications for children. People in the community apply to be married and are matched to their partner through a complicated process. Jobs are selected for community members at the age of 12, and they have no choice in the matter. This world is based on complete equality, but this world did not just spring up out of nowhere. It is set in the future and everything that America is today, all the memories and feelings, are handed down to one member in the community so that the people do not forget why their society has been created into the thing that now exists. Jonas is chosen to be the next Receiver, and the Giver, who bestows memories upon Jonas about feelings and the past, trains him. Through these memories, Jonas learns about love, compassion, remorse, war, pain, famine and every emotion in between. He learns to hate the lack of freedom in his community, and the Giver gives him a way out to a new life.
Anthem: Equality 7-2521 lives in a world where a unique identity is not allowed; saying the word “I” is punishable by death. In this society, where equality is of the utmost importance, individuality is squashed through assigned jobs, places of mating and forbidden levels of excellence in sports and academics. Equality 7-2521 is curious and intelligent and has always felt that he is different from those around him. He discovers things that others can only dream of and wants to share them with everyone. He discovers love with another individual and realizes the ultimate meaning of “I,” which is taboo in this world. He escapes the world he has always known to live in the forests with the one he loves. This allows him to gain knowledge about everything possible, and he can fully understand the meaning of freedom.
“The Giver” and “Anthem” have their obvious similarities: dystopian society, seemingly unfair equality and a lack of individual identity. They also have similar protagonists that seek freedom and knowledge, as well as similar law-makers that keep the members of society in line through unjust treatment. Each of these books has a similar dystopian message, but I only liked one.
“The Giver” is very open ended. similar to “J” that I reviewed last week, leaving the reader unsure of what happens to Jonas, whereas “Anthem” clearly states that Equality 7-2521 lives in the forest with his lover and his expanding wealth of knowledge. Each novel tells the compelling story of a society driven by equality, but each does not end in clarity. The preference is up to you, or you could read both and decide for yourself which one is the better dystopian society. After reading “J” and discovering that I can appreciate a novel with an open ending, I might give “The Giver” another read.