The role of memory
The author’s intention
Lois Lowry, in her award speech at the 1994 Newbery Medal ceremony, which she received for the book The Giver, describes how the idea for the novel came about and what her intention was. The story, Lowry said, grew out of many personal experiences and observations of the world. Her starting point was people who either separated themselves from others or wanted to forget in order to feel better and safe, or people who came together to form a community and were curious and open to others.
Therefore, the importance of memories was the main source for the idea of the novel (see "Origins"). The author believes that painful memories are also important for us as people and for our society. How can you feel happy if you don't know what unhappiness is? How can you know what hunger is if you eat enough every day for the rest of your life?
In the young adult novel The Giver, Lois Lowry conducts a thinking experiment and wonders what it would be like to exclude all cruel memories, as well as pain, danger, and hardship. She creates a seemingly perfect world and describes a society that lives by the principle "only us, only now" and is thus focused only on itself and on the present.
This mentality already seems similar in several aspects to the attitude towards life of our contemporary society, which is increasingly controlled by screens and lives in a "virtual reality". Lowry predicts in her novel that a future problem-free and perfect world will be sad, colorless, and monotonous.
The importance of painful memories becomes even clearer in another scene Lowry describes to us from her life. The novel she wrote before The Giver is called Number the Stars, (1989) and deals with the Holocaust.
At the Newbery Medal award ceremony, which Lowry also received for Number the Stars, a woman asked her if it was possible to finally forget the Holocaust . But Lowry, who has spoken to her German daughter-in-law about the issue, believes that it would be dangerous not to remember it.
Lowry concludes by stressing the importance of passing on memories and knowledge of an "Elsewhere," that is, knowledge of other cultures, people, and feelings, to one's children.
Lowry considers books as a means for passing on memories and knowledge. This knowledge gives childr...