An Analysis of a Utopian Society Through Psychoanalysis in The Giver, a Novel by Lois Lowry

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The Giver is the story about an eleven years old boy named Jonas who lived in a very ideal society. He was assigend to be the Receiver of Memory that he has to hold all the past of his community. Jonas’ community was made the world with the idology of sameness where their limit all the distinction, there are no war, conflict, climate etc. Their choose to avoid it to make the world peace. However, since they avoid all the bad things about life they did also away the joy and the pleasure. There’s no color, music and love. This kind of society was called as utopian. Then, this paper is aimed to seek the reason behind that through psychological approch, what is kind of mental issue that triggers the society in the past so that they choose to be an utopian society.


Louis Lowry’s The Giver (1993) is one of the most famous children books in 1990s. The story begin with the main character’s Jonas who feel frigtened because the upcoming of the Ceremony of Twelve. In Jonas’s society, the Ceremony of Twelve is the new beginning or the transition from childhood into an adult which means all of  the eleven will be given their own Assignment as a new adult member of the society. Jonas thinks that he doesn’s have any special or interest of his , even though he actually enjoys some kind  of  activity like volunteering some different jobs but he still feels apprehensive. Actually the word ‘apprehensive’ is the word that Jonas choose to express his feeling when remember about the Ceremony of Twelve, he conciously changes the word because it is one of the rules of his community to prcision the use language. Jonas lives in an utopian society which has made the world as perfect as possible. They eliminate all the pain, fear, war, hatred and many kind of things that might cause the problem. There is no flaws and diversity, everyone is formed almost with no differences, no color, no competition, no choice, no emotion. The things like appearences, jobs , weather, architecture, food, even language was created with the idology of equal. The society planned and organize  life  as convenient as possible. Then the existance of the Receiver of Memory in that community was positioned as an honour which is the one who can protect them making the mistakes in the past but the Receiver has bear the pain. Jonas desperation through his community leads him to escape the community and find the Elswhere. However, the main purpose of the society to keep the Receiver of Memory and all the rules that they made to avoid all the problem in the past is really interesting point to seek out. There are must be the reason why a person even a society could change and this is what the research going to cover. This paper, then, intends to find out what kind of disorder in  Jonas’s society using psychoanalysis approach.


Utopian Society Utopia is a term for an imagined place where everything is perfect. It has been used to describe an imaginary world where the social justice is achieved as well as the principles that could guarantee it. Utopia symbolizes people’s hopes and dreams. Utopia turns to be synonymous with impossible because an ideal life in a perfect society that it offers appears to be out of reach. The authors of utopias depict the societies similar to theirs but better organized. They also offer a detailed plan of how we can create such a society and how it might be run. The term was taken from Thomas More’s novel Utopia, published in 1551, where he depicted an ideal society based on equalism, economic and political prosperity and where poverty and misery were eradicated. More’s Utopia is inspired by Plato’s Republic, which is considered the first utopian novel. The setting of the giver is depicted as the community that build and manage everything with perfection. It is described as an ideal society with has a little amount or even no flaws. This community then clearly depicted what so called the utopian society. However, when everything is considered to throw away all the worst and bad side of life they also cannot feel and appreciate the real joy of life. Psychoanalysis Psychoanalysis criticism is one of branch literary theory that used as a psychological approach to analyse the element of literary work . This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). According to Barry (2009), Psychoanalytic criticism is a form of literary criticism which uses come of the techniques of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. From above quotation, there is a different of way using psychoanalysis. In medical treatment, psychoanalysis is used to treat people and to cure them from mental issue whether in literature psychoanalysis is used to interpret of element literary work. In this paper, the writer uses Freudian principal in analyzing the mental issue of Jonas’s society. Freud divided three parts of human psyche which are the id, the ego, ans the superego. Dobie (2012) writes that the id is the source of our psychic energy and our psychosexual desires, give us vitality. He states that because the id is always trying to satisfy its hunger for pleasure, it operates without any thought of consequences, anxiety, ethics, logic, precaution, or moraly. Still continue Dobie (2012) statement, then the ego is the part of the psyche that operates the reality of principles. The ego is the closest of the three parts of the psyche to what we think of as consiousess, for it mediates between our inner selves and the outer world. Then the last part of the psyche is the superego. The superego take part as the boundary of the id and the ego. It operates according to moral principle as a judgement between right and wrong. In line with Feud, his daughter Anna (1936) elaborate the ideas and developed on them, adding ten of her own. Many psychoanalysts have also added further types of ego defenses. According to McLeod (2009) Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings. It usually comes out when someone feel threthened or because of the id or superego becomes too demanding.


In this novel, the society is potrayed withc the characteristic of sameness. The government or the Elders of the community provide the safety and walfare fo the society. The condition is structured without fear and threats, peacefull manner, and treated equally. “But then everyone would be burdened and pained. They don’t want that. And that’s the real reason…” (p.113) From above quatation, it can be conclude that the society finds the pleasure when they feel safe. The desire to get the ideality of perfection is quite high. They do not have to think about dangerous, crime, suffering, climate change and many kind of issue. Ego To get the ideal community, Jonas’s society in the story of the Giver alsa make many kind of rules. For example such as the rules not to lie, the rules to eliminate choice where the society has assigned a job based on their abilities, after that they can apply for assigned a spouse then get two children from Bithmother who is the woman that assigned to spend their first time into Nurturing Center with other babies or new children born that year. Then, when their children are grown, family units dissolve and adults live together with Childless Adults until they are too old to function in the society, they spend their last years being cared for in the House of the Old until they are finally “released” from the society. Superego The superego prevents the society to behave properly. Since this society has many kind of rules to pursue the equality they has a rule to concern about language. In this society, they prohibit using the word that has very strong emotion such as suffering, frightened even love. “Do you love me? There was an awkward silence dor a moment. Then father gave a little chuckle. Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!” From above quotation, it can be conclude that this society has concern about morality through using the language. Defense Mechanism Anna Freud (1936) proposed denial involves blocking external events from awareness.  If some situation is just too much to handle, the person just refuses to experience it. “Our people made that choice , the choice to go sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences” “They don’t want to hear about pain. They just seek the advise. I simply advise them againts increasing the population”. Two kind of quotation above depicted clearly about how Jonas’ society could behave or choose to go to samaness. Because in the past, many kind of social even natural disaster happen succeed to lead people into misery, suffering everyone because of all the chaos which come from human selfisness. This matter made people frigtened, anxiety even troumatic which finally turn into behavious or action which tend to refuses it.


From the disscussion above, the utopian society is the ideal with no flaws community in the story of the Giver. Since the society decide to go to the sameness, they limit all the differences, they creates the perfection of life, giving the equality to all citizens, creates the life as peace and convinent as possible, even assigned each people job. Using Psychoanalysis approach, the writers got several point behind the reason why the society decide to be like that. It because of the society has the id more dominant than other part of psyche of so that kind of society could be exist. The society also naturally does the defense, which their denial the past. According to Anna Freud, when the situatuion just too impossible to handle, the someone tend to avoid to experience it, then it also what actually does to Jonas’s society.

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