I'm intrigued by this passage in Lois Lowry, The Giver, chapter 10.

He watched as the man rose and moved first to the wall where the speaker was. It was the same sort of speaker that occupied a place in every dwelling, but one thing about it was different. This one had a switch, which the man deftly snapped to the end that said OFF.

Jonas almost gasped aloud. To have the power to turn the speaker off! It was an astonishing thing.

In chapter 20, the Giver implies that the switch controls not only the speaker, but also the microphone that the Giver's secretary listens to.

“You may stay here tonight. I want to talk to you. But you must be quiet now, while I notify your family unit. No one must hear you cry.”


The Giver waited silently . Finally Jonas was able to quiet himself and he sat huddled, his shoulders shaking.

The Giver went to the wall speaker and clicked the switch to ON.

“Yes, Reveiver. How may I help you?”

“Notify the new Receiver's family unit that he will be staying with me tonight, for additional training.”

“I will take care of that, sir. Thank you for your instructions,” the voice said.

Is this trying to reference George Orwell's 1984? In that novel, too, every apartment has a television that cannot be silenced, so Smith is astonished that the inner party member O'Brien has a television that can be turned off completely. O'Brien also seemed to imply that turning off the television turns off the surveillance, although O'Brien lied while the Giver tells the truth.

1 Answer 1


The idea of surveillance by governments and of a privileged caste demanding and receiving privacy isn't unique to Orwell, but that scene certainly does sound as though it's pretty much a “straight lift”.

From 1984, Book Two, Chapter Eight:

As O’Brien passed the telescreen a thought seemed to strike him. He stopped, turned aside and pressed a switch on the wall. There was a sharp snap. The voice had stopped.

Julia uttered a tiny sound, a sort of squeak of surprise. Even in the midst of his panic, Winston was too much taken aback to be able to hold his tongue.

‘You can turn it off!’ he said.

‘Yes,’ said O’Brien, ‘we can turn it off. We have that privilege.’

The Giver does appear to be intentionally a retelling of themes found in other “dystopian future” novels: particularly, for example, Wikipedia quotes a review suggesting it references Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451:

The story has been told before in a variety of forms—Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind—but not, to my knowledge, for children.

but one or two aspects are closer to 1984, such as the general repression of individuality and “colour” - somewhat figuratively in 1984, quite literally in The Giver:

The society has taken away pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives.
The Community lacks any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.
[protagonist] has never seen a sled, or snow, or a hill for even the memory of these things has been given up to assure security and conformity (called Sameness). Even color has been surrendered, ...

whereas in Farenheit 451 much of that sameness stems from hedonistic lifestyles and the “rebels” are the quiet ones.

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    Thank you for adding the quote to the original 1984 scene. I am not convinced by the wikipedia citation--its wikipedia--but the similarity between the 1984 passage and the giver passage is compelling evidence
    – user111
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:52
  • Bradbury's story focusses on how almost no books are left in circulation, leading to a very limited cultural stock; it uses hedonism to distract rather than asceticism to constrain the populace, but does so for similar ends; and in the end, involves some characters “rebuilding society” by starting to disseminate historical and cultural knowledge again. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:54
  • 1
    Oh, and thanks for the edit! It actually improves the answer a lot. Appreciated. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:54

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