Friday, December 12, 2008

The Roller Coaster

My eighth grade son's language arts class (back in the day, we called it English) has been reading The Giver, by Lois Lowry. The back jacket for the book gives this description:

Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community.

When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it's time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

I tried talking to my son about the book, and what kind of class discussions they have. It seems that in the book, nobody has any feelings. Only certain women are selected to have babies, and then only one or two. There are no thirds. If a woman has twins one of the babies is killed. That got my wife's attention. The people in the book have basically turned their whole life over to central planning. There is no sadness, but there is also no joy.

This sounded to me an awful lot like the premise of a B science fiction movie that I had once watched. All that I could remember about the movie was that Boromir (okay, it was actor Sean Bean, who will always be Boromir to me) died in an early scene. I went to and found that the movie I was remembering was Equilibrium. The plot summary from imdb:

In a futuristic world, a strict regime has eliminated war by suppressing emotions: books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling is a crime punishable by death. Cleric John Preston (Bale) is a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. When he misses a dose of Prozium, a mind-altering drug that hinders emotion, Preston, who has been trained to enforce the strict laws of the new regime, suddenly becomes the only person capable of overthrowing it.

I'll bet you can guess what the moral of both stories ends up being. It's a sentiment that I think was best summed up in Parenthood:

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Perhaps Kallocain has been translated to English?

It's a Swedish novel, by dissatisfied ex-Communist Karin Boye.

Has a similar moral.