Daily Archives: April 20, 2012

Reading Circles – The Giver {Part One}

Happy Friday everyone! Have you all managed to wrangle a copy of The Giver, by Lois Lowry?

Last week, we read the first three chapters of the book, with a focus on hooks and how Lowry draws the reader in to her story, how she sets the scene, and how she establishes her characters, especially Jonas. What did you notice? How did the beginning work – or not work – for you? What draws  you in and makes you want to read more?

Let me share a couple of my initial reactions, and then I’ll open the floor for your reactions and observations in the comments. I’ll discuss my views in further detail with you in the comments.

For me, the initial draw was the setting. It appears normal, but there is something flagging me, making me wonder: where we are, and when? The word “Pilots” with a capital “P” combined with the very bland word “community” are markers telling me we’re someplace different than what you might expect at first. By the time Lowry mentions the release of community members, I’m aware of a sense of foreboding and that the book is most likely dystopian in nature.

Already these clues tell us so much! What stood out for you?

*     *     *

As the book develops, we begin to gain even more awareness of character, conflict, and setting. For the next week, let’s read chapters 4-6 and pay attention to how these things unfold. There are a myriad of elements in a work of fiction, all working in tandem to create the whole. Let me draw your attention to a few questions on some of the main dimensions.

Plot: One of the main differences between a plot that keeps the pages turning and a plot that sags like your grannies’ undies is conflict. Conflict must always be present, even if it’s as simple as your character in need of a glass of water. What sense of conflict are we getting here? What does Jonas want and what internal and/or external forces prevent him from having it?

Character: What do we know about Jonas? What makes him relatable to us, the reader? How does the author reveal these traits about him; what clues does she give? What details are most telling for you?

Dialogue: Dialogue does more than just represent a conversation between characters. It can advance the plot as well as reveal detail about setting and about the characters themselves. Take a look at the conversations Jonas has with his parents and sister around the dinner table. Do they look and sound like your dinner conversations? What do they tell us about Jonas’s parents? About the community in which they live?

Prose: What kind of writing style is Lowry exhibiting? Is it flowery and ornamental? Fast-paced and exciting? In what ways do you think her writing style reflects something about the story?

Take a look and let me know what you think! I’m always curious to see how different people read the same work and how widely interpretations vary – and what remains universal. Have a great weekend!