Saturday, July 28, 2007

Feeling Pensieve about The Giver

In her blog, Bookworm recently posed a question about how one might differentiate between a literary homage and a literary rip-off. As I read The Giver (published in 1993), I was fascinated to see myself staring into Dumbledore’s pensieve (first revealed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, published in 2000) as the bearded, elderly mentor chose memories (magically presented from an omniscient point of view) to share with his youthful pupil. Receipt of the memories is a bittersweet experience for the student. In Harry Potter, the pensieve is a useful tool for a privileged few to access. In The Giver, memories are forbidden for most people. In each case, the pupil had been pre-ordained to bear a great burden on behalf of the community, and needed to be fortified with knowledge from the past in order to free loved ones from unpleasantness that would otherwise befall them.

In her June post about The Giver, Alicia asked: Is it possible to create a compelling story (about regimented eu/dys-topias) in which the protagonist is persuaded by the merits of and chooses to remain and support the society despite knowledge of its shortfalls? The wizarding world doesn’t nearly reach the level of regimentation of the society described by Lois Lowry (others have pointed out The Giver’s similarities to the planet in A Wrinkle in Time, and I also recall a Star Trek: Next Generation episode, in which Wesley Crusher had a close call after falling into a flowerbed). Taking gifted children away from their families to be schooled at Hogwarts, a sorting hat and a room full of prophecies are the main things I can think of where Rowling approaches regimentation.

Homage? I loved both books, but it is interesting to see how one author (perhaps) draws inspiration from another and uses it in a new way. J.K. Rowling and Lois Lowry both explore memory, using similar devices, and reach somewhat similar conclusions about the value of love, loyalty and innocence. I’ve got no problem with reinforcing those lessons. I’ll vote for homage.


doulicia said...

before I read the full post (which I want to), are there any spoilers in it? I have yet to close out the Potter series.

Sandy D. said...

The only spoilers are for "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "Fifth Business" - the discussion is here.

Aunt Sara said...

No was deliberately vague about the conclusions, just mentioning themes common to both books.

I did think of another similarity in the imaginary societies in the two books - the Ministry of Magic bureaucracy in Potter's world and the endless committees in The Giver are both viewed with amusement and exasperation by the residents of their worlds.