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Utopie en bevrijding

Literair werk


Voorkant Lowry 'The giver' Lois LOWRY
The giver
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993;
ISBN: 03 9564 5662

[Ik heb het eens een keer anders aangepakt en probeer meteen te ordenen naar inhoudelijke thema's.]

De regels

Het allerergste: het overtreden of afwijken van de regels. Dat betekent niet dat het niet gebeurt. Kleinere overtredingen in ieder geval wel en soms grotere. Niet alle regels zijn even belangrijk. Kinderen leren al stiekem fietsen voor hun negende en iedereen grinnikt daar over. Overtredingen worden goedgemaakt door een Apology.

Het uitspreken van gevoelens als ritueel aan tafel 's avonds. Het vertellen over dromen bij het ontbijt.

"Jonas sighed. This evening he almost would have preferred to keep his feelings hidden. But it was, of course, against the rules."

"Rules were very hard to change. Sometimes, if it was a very important rule—unlike the one governing the age for bicycles—it would have to go, eventually, to The Receiver for a decision."

"Jonas shrugged. It didn't worry him. How could someone not fit in? The community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made."

Kinderen, de indeling in levensjaren

Over het verlies van een kind:

"This new Caleb was a replacement child. The couple had lost their first Caleb, a cheerful little Four. Loss of a child was very, very rare. The community was extraordinarily safe, each citizen watchful and protective of all children. But somehow the first little Caleb had wandered away unnoticed, and had fallen into the river. The entire community had performed the Ceremony of Loss together, murmuring the name Caleb throughout an entire day, less and less frequently, softer in volume, as the long and somber day went on, so that the little Four seemed to fade away gradually from everyone's consciousness.
Now, at this special Naming, the community performed the brief Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, repeating the name for the first time since the loss: softly and slowly at first, then faster and with greater volume, as the couple stood on the stage with the newchild sleeping in the mother's arms. It was as if the first Caleb were returning."

Over de fase van newchildren naar Ones. Dat vindt niet plaats in gezinnen maar in het Nurturing Center.

"Birthmothers never even get to see newchildren. If you enjoy the little ones so much, you should hope for an Assignment as Nurturer."

Soms kan een baby onder voorwaarden in huis gehaald worden door een Nurturer om extra aandacht te kunnen schenken.

"Each family member, including Lily, had been required to sign a pledge that they would not become attached to this little temporary guest, and that they would relinquish him without protest or appeal when he was assigned to his own family unit at next year's Ceremony."


""One at a time—there were always fifty in each year's group, if none had been released—they had been brought to the stage by the Nurturers who had cared for them since birth.""

Eerst hebben ze alleen een nummer. Dat nummer blijft hun hele leven. Als ze One worden krijgen ze een naam - alleen een voornaam, er zijn geen familienamen - in het Naming-ritueel bij de jaarlijkse Ceremony.


Het ritueel van het dromen vertellen bij het ontbijt begint op die leeftijd.

Fours, Fives, and Sixes

"Fours, Fives, and Sixes all wore jackets that fastened down the back so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence."


Krijgen een 'front-buttoned jacket':

"The front-buttoned jacket was the first sign of independence, the first very visible symbol of growing up."


Eights horen het Comfort Object (een knuffel of zo; Imaginary Creatures, "Jonas's had been called a bear" - de formulering laat weer zien dat er geen echte dieren waren; het worden fantasiedieren) in te leveren als ze Eight worden (die worden gerecycled naar de newchildren). Ze gaan ook Volunteer Hours doen.

"He remembered when he had become an Eight, as Lily would do shortly, and had been faced with that freedom of choice. The Eights always set out on their first volunteer hour a little nervously, giggling and staying in groups of friends. They almost invariably did their hours on Recreation Duty first, helping with the younger ones in a place where they still felt comfortable. But with guidance, as they developed self-confidence and maturity, they moved on to other jobs, gravitating toward those that would suit their own interests and skills."

"volunteer hours would be carefully tabulated at the Hall of Open Records."

Lily wordt een Eight en krijgt een nieuw jasje:

"the identifying jacket that she would wear this year, this one with smaller buttons and, for the first time, pockets, indicating that she was mature enough now to keep track of her own small belongings."


Nines krijgen bij het ritueel een fiets met naamplaat. Haarlintjes gaan weg (alleen bij de meisjes die hun haar blijkbaar in staartjes / 'braids' hebben), jongens krijgen kort haar.

"The bicycle, at Nine, would be the powerful emblem of moving gradually out into the community, away from the protective family unit."


"Jonas never found the Ceremony of Ten particularly interesting—only time-consuming, as each child's hair was snipped neatly into its distinguishing cut: females lost their braids at Ten, and males, too, relinquished their long childish hair and took on the more manly short style which exposed their ears."


"By Eleven, one was only waiting to be Twelve. It was simply a marking of time with no meaningful changes. There was new clothing: different undergarments for the females, whose bodies were beginning to change; and longer trousers for the males, with a specially shaped pocket for the small calculator that they would use this year in school; but those were simply presented in wrapped packages without an accompanying speech."


Twelves krijgen tijdens de jaarlijkse Ceremony of Twelve een Assignment door de Elders die na intensieve observaties wordt toegekend en passend is - er kan wel bezwaar worden aangetekend, maar de commissie die dat bestudeert doet er bijzonder lang over om tot een conclusie te komen - en worden daarna getraind in die taak. Dat gebeurt naast school.

Na de Twelve-fase zijn er geen leeftijdsaanduidingen meer, men wordt als volwassen beschouwd.


"'I can see that you are very old,' Jonas responded with respect. The Old were always given the highest respect.""

De relatie / Het gezin

Een relatie tussen twee mensen moet goedgekeurd worden door de Elders. Je vraagt om een partner. Je doet niet per se zelf een voorstel.

"Even the Matching of Spouses was given such weighty consideration that sometimes an adult who applied to receive a spouse waited months or even years before a Match was approved and announced. All of the factors—disposition, energy level, intelligence, and interests—had to correspond and to interact perfectly. Jonas's mother, for example, had higher intelligence than his father; but his father had a calmer disposition. They balanced each other. Their Match, which like all Matches had been monitored by the Committee of Elders for three years before they could apply for children, had always been a successful one."

De 'Family Unit'. Dat zijn gezinnen van vader, moeder, zoon en dochter. Niet iedereen wordt geschikt geacht hiervoor. De vader en moeder dienen een verzoek in om kinderen. Een kind komt bij een family unit als het een is na de Ceremony of One. Comfort Objects worden meteen met de geboorte meegegeven. De rituelen als het droomvertelritueel, het gevoelensvertelritueel vinden hier plaats.

[Merkwaardig dat de termen vader en moeder toch gebruikt worden; ze zijn het namelijk niet in bioloogische zin.]

Het Uniformiteitsprincipe

De meeste leden van de gemeenschap hebben donkere ogen. Jonas heeft bleke ogen. Dat maakt hem uitzonderlijk en daar houdt hij niet van.

"No one mentioned such things; it was not a rule, but was considered rude to call attention to things that were unsettling or different about individuals."

"The evening proceeded as all evenings did in the family unit, in the dwelling, in the community: quiet, reflective, a time for renewal and preparation for the day to come. It was different only in the addition to it of the newchild with his pale, solemn, knowing eyes."

"that uncomfortable category of "being different." (...) Always better, less rude, to talk about things that were the same."

"You Elevens have spent all your years till now learning to fit in, to standardize your behavior, to curb any impulse that might set you apart from the group. But today we honor your differences. They have determined your futures."

Zo zegt de Chief Elder bij de Ceremony of Twelve.

"Now, for the first time in his twelve years of life, Jonas felt separate, different. He remembered what the Chief Elder had said: that his training would be alone and apart. But his training had not yet begun and already, upon leaving the Auditorium, he felt the apartness."


Ook op een andere manier:

"Fur­ni­ture was stan­dard through­out the com­mu­nity: prac­ti­cal, sturdy, the func­tion of each piece clearly de­fined. A bed for sleep­ing. A table for eat­ing. A desk for study­ing."

Waarom geen sneeuw, heuvels etc.:

"Climate Control. Snow made growing food difficult, limited the agricultural periods. And unpredictable weather made transportation almost impossible at times. It wasn't a practical thing, so it became obsolete when we went to Sameness.
''And hills, too,'' he added. ''They made conveyance of goods unwieldy. Trucks; buses. Slowed them down. So — '' He waved his hand, as if a gesture had caused hills to disappear. ''Sameness,'' he concluded."


[Er wordt nadrukkelijk geschreven in termen van 'a male / a female', hoewel boy en girl ook wel voorkomen. Maar sentiment / gevoelswaarde wordt zo wel vermeden.]

Aanrakingen binnen het gezin, om te troosten bijvoorbeeld, zijn blijkbaar toegestaan.

[Je vraagt je af wat die ouders met elkaar deden? Sliepen ze samen in één bed? Hadden ze seks? In ieder geval niet gericht op het krijgen van kinderen.]

"Mirrors were rare in the community; they weren't forbidden, but there was no real need of them ..."

""She [Fiona] looked up and smiled at him, but she was busy, gently washing a man who lay in the warm water."

"And the nakedness, too. It was against the rules for children or adults to look at another's nakedness; but the rule did not apply to newchildren or the Old. Jonas was glad. It was a nuisance to keep oneself covered while changing for games, and the required apology if one had by mistake glimpsed another's body was always awkward. He couldn't see why it was necessary. He liked the feeling of safety here in this warm and quiet room; he liked the expression of trust on the woman's face as she lay in the water unprotected, exposed, and free.
From the corner of his eye he could see his friend Fiona help the old man from the tub and tenderly pat his thin, naked body dry with an absorbant cloth. She helped him into his robe."

Later krijgt hij een droom, waarin hij alleen met Fiona is, halfnaakt, en wil dat ze zich uitkleedt zodat hij haar kan baden.

"Jonas looked at his plate. For some reason that he didn't understand, he felt slightly embarrassed [waarom zou hij dat voelen?]. I think I was trying to convince her that she should get into the tub of water."
He paused. He knew he had to tell it all, that it was not only all right but necessary to tell all of a dream. So he forced himself to relate the part that made him uneasy.
"I wanted her to take off her clothes and get into the tub," he explained quickly. "I wanted to bathe her. I had the sponge in my hand. But she wouldn't. She kept laughing and saying no.""

Het verlangen is het bepalende gevoel. Het zijn zijn 'first Stirrings' vertelt zijn moeder. Hij moet voortaan medicatie gebruiken om die te onderdrukken. Alle volwassenen gebruiken die medicatie.

Genoemde beroepen en functies

Nurturers / Laborers / Doctor / Engineer / Birthmother / Speaker / Recreation Director / Rehabilitation Director / Caretaker / Instructor of Elevens / Security Guard / Pilot / San­i­ta­tion La­borer / Fish Hatchery Attendant / Assistant Director of Recreation / Caretaker of the Old / Receiver of Memory

Er zijn duidelijk statusverschillen. Jonas is niet jaloers op de werkers, Birthmothers worden na drie jaar Laborer en hebben daarom weinig status, zie de reactie van moeder op Lily's wens; Laborers doen "hard physical labor".


The Receiver is de meest belangrijke Elder. Maar er is ook een Chief Elder, de 'leader of the community' die om de tien jaar gekozen wordt. Er is een Committee of Elders waarvan die de voorzitter is.

[Is dat dezelfde persoon als de Receiver?]

Er zijn andere Committees die vergaderen, bv. Planning Committee Hall of Open Records, House of the Old. Zowel Jonas, Fiona als Asher helpen daar bij het voeden en baden van ouderen.

Het release-idee (Released to Elsewhere)

"For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure."

"A name designated Not-to-Be-Spoken indicated the highest degree of disgrace."

De 'releasing' van ongeschikte pasgeborenen wordt als triest ervaren. Het wordt gedaan omdat het kind het label Inadequate heeft gekregen, bijvoorbeeld omdat het niet goed genoeg gegroeid is.

"There were only two occasions of release which were not punishment. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we-have-done."

Wat ook betekent dat alles geprobeerd is om het newchild zo ver te krijgen dat het geschikt is.

Releaseritueel of an elderly, Roberto.

"Well, there was the telling of his life. That is always first. Then the toast. We all raised our glasses and cheered. We chanted the anthem. He made a lovely good-bye speech. And several of us made little speeches wishing him well. I didn't, though. I've never been fond of public speaking.
"He was thrilled. You should have seen the look on his face when they let him go."

Maar niemand weet waar de releasede ouderen naar toe gaan.

"The rules say that if there's a third transgression, he simply has to be released."

Jonas als visionair (met zijn Capacity to See Beyond)

"But suddenly Jonas had noticed, following the path of the apple through the air with his eyes, that the piece of fruit had—well, this was the part that he couldn't adequately understand—the apple had changed. Just for an instant."

"But when he looked out across the crowd, the sea of faces, the thing happened again. The thing that had happened with the apple. They changed."

De regels waaraan hij zich moet houden [zijn op zijn zachtst gezegd merkwaardig]:

"1. Go immediately at the end of school hours each day to the Annex entrance behind the House of the Old and present yourself to the attendant.
2. Go immediately to your dwelling at the conclusion of Training Hours each day.
3. From this moment you are exempted from rules governing rudeness. You may ask any question of any citizen and you will receive answers.
4. Do not discuss your training with any other member of the community, including parents and Elders.
5. From this moment you are prohibited from dream-telling.
6. Except for illness or injury unrelated to your training, do not apply for any medication.
7. You are not permitted to apply for release.
8. You may lie."

[Alsof hij ineens voor de Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst werkt: geheimzinnigheid, leugens, botte vragen stellen mag, etc etc. Echt heel vreemd. Van de andere kant mag hij wel alles voelen - geen medicatie.]


"But the most conspicuous difference [van de afdeling Receiver of Memories vergeleken met andere] was the books. In his own dwelling, there were the necessary reference volumes that each household contained: a dictionary, and the thick community volume which contained descriptions of every office, factory, building, and committee. And the Book of Rules, of course.
The books in his own dwelling were the only books that Jonas had ever seen. He had never known that other books existed."


"a female Eleven named Fiona. Jonas liked Fiona. She was a good student, quiet and polite, but she had a sense of fun as well."

"Eighteen, Fiona, on his left, was called. Jonas knew she must be nervous, but Fiona was a calm female. She had been sitting quietly, serenely, throughout the Ceremony.
Even the applause, though enthusiastic, seemed serene when Fiona was given the important Assignment of Caretaker of the Old. It was perfect for such a sensitive, gentle girl, and her smile was satisfied and pleased when she took her seat beside him again."

Losse feiten

Er zijn blijkbaar geen dieren in de gemeenschap.

Er worden vaak bezoeken uitgewisseld met andere gemeenschappen die er andere regels op nahouden (hoever dat gaat is niet duidelijk).

Geen enkele deur in de gemeenschap is op slot (behalve die van de Receiver of Memory).

(Wordt vervolgd)

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