Significant Connections

My chosen connection portrays how a controlling government causes people to feel alienated from society. The texts I have chosen are ‘Gathering Blue’ by Lois Lowry, ‘The Giver’, by Lois Lowry, ‘Legend’, by Marie Lu, and ‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner. All of the books that I have chosen are from dystopian literature, and therefore have a similar feel throughout them. Each text shows in detail the effects of being alienated from society, and how oppressive societal control and the illusion of an ideal community corrupts the minds of those within that society.

Across all of the texts I have chosen, the alienation of the focus character was the result of a government or community shunning and advertising biased opinions toward the character, because of a discrepancy in them that excludes them from others. In “Gathering Blue”, written by Lois Lowry, Kira is alienated from her community, following the death of her mother, who had protected her from the towns peoples harsh words. The main character of this text is Kira, who lives in a secluded town with absurd rules. Because of the isolation of this community, they have no real sense of how a normal society functions, so the rules created are often ludicrous. “It was terrifying, almost unbelievable, the casualness of the cruelty. [of the rules].” Kira was born with a deformity in her leg, rendering her useless to the town and she is chastised and berated for this daily. Orphaned and physically flawed in a civilisation that shuns and discards the weak, Kira faces a frighteningly uncertain future. The illogical reasoning that the government publicises that any person with a deformity of any kind should be killed due to their uselessness is why Kira is being shunned and the cause of her alienation. These rules have been promoted since the beginning of the community, so they are viewed upon by the residents as the norm. This hostility is shown in the line “We don’t want you here, ‘the women said. ’You don’t belong in the village anymore. You’re worthless, with that leg. Your mother always protected you but she’s gone now. You should go too.” where Kira is encircled by people with sharp rocks in their hands, and the intention to kill her. One lady speaks up, and argues that not contributing to the community means she must either leave, or be killed. Kira stops them, by retelling one of their many laws. The women acknowledge the law Kira cites, but only for the reason that they will face consequences if it is not followed. “‘Yes, the causer of death must die.’ Other voices repeated it. One by one they released the rocks. One by one each woman chose not to be a causer of death.” Kira deals with both alienation and betrayal throughout the text, and is forced into supporting a cause that she no longer believes in, the cause being the community’s law. She is isolated from the community and lacks the emotional support that she desperately needs. We can learn from this that if people within a community or society are coaxed into hating an enemy, then it becomes easier for that society to be driven towards a common goal. In this case, Kira has become an enemy in the eyes of the community, and with everyone against her staying with them, it becomes all the more easier for them to push her out. Although everyone is set on her being ‘disposed of’, Kira gains strength and determination by identifying who are her enemies, and gaining a few trusted friends.

The second text I have chosen is the dystopian novel ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry, the same author of the previous text. This story follows the life of Jonas, a 12 year old boy who has grown up in a society whose morals are corrupted. The ‘Community’ as it is known has converted to ‘Sameness’, a process which has abolished all pain and worry, but in doing so, removed all emotional depth from the citizens of the Community. Jonas is chosen to take up the position of the Receiver of Memories, a position which allows him to gain all the knowledge from the Giver. Only one person is selected for this job, and they must not tell anyone of the memories that they receive which, as Jonas learns, is a terrible burden to carry alone. The text explores the theme of isolation and alienation, as Jonas receives more and more memories, but feels more than ever the need to share them with someone. He struggles with the new found emotions, and in a community where any colour, memory, climate, or terrain, are all controlled, begins to realise how inhumane the communities rules are. The rules are in place in an effort to preserve structure and order within the citizens, but to also enforce a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality, our individuality being the thing that ultimately makes us human. “Jonas looked at her. She was so lovely. For a fleeting instant he thought he would like nothing better than to ride peacefully along the river path, laughing and talking with his gentle female friend. But he knew such times had been taken from him now. He shook his head. After a moment his two friends turned and went to their bikes. He watched as they rode away.” Jonas is so far removed from his peers and it is the result of his new awareness that makes this so. He knows life before the severe rules; he knows colour, emotion and humanity. He is isolated from his peers because this burden that he carries can not be shared, and he cant ever be with those around him, not in a way that is meaningful. “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”, words of the Giver to Jonas. The Giver knows what Jonas is going through, as he had to do the very same thing many years past. He recognises the pain this is causing him. This teaches us that the community has turned rule enforcement into a collective, communal activity. Much like ‘Gathering Blue’, this community enforces the ideal that when a society shuns as individual as a group, the task of bending them to their will becomes a lot easier. In Kira’s case, being handicapped is a display of weakness, and therefore, the community has no use for them. Kira has no mother or father, no relatives, and noone to turn to. Throughout the book we can see how this affects her and how it hurts her. This shows how much someone can be impacted by the words of others, and much it can hurt to have no-one there for you. Jonas shares this feeling with Kira, in that his whole community scorn him for attempting to shed light on the inhumane systems the Community uses. This is a situation where if both Jonas and Kira had someone to turn to, not much could be done. There are no other communities to challenge the beliefs of their own communities. They are, in a way, trapped, confined in the walls of the very place that they once thought was safe. Both characters face alienation as a result of a controlling government.

In the novel “Legend”, by Marie Lu, the theme a controlling government causes people to feel alienated from society is very apparent through the character Day. Day is a 15 year old boy, who was born in the slums of the Republic’s Lake Sector, the poor sector of the 3 other rich sectors. A national test called ‘The Trials’ are tests that an individual takes on their 10th birthday. The scores range from 0-1500 points. If an individual scores between 0 and 999 points (0-67%), they ‘fail.’ The scores go up from there, determining which ‘Class’ you get into. Day was led to believe that he scored 45% on his Trail, the lowest anyone had ever gotten. He was taken into the Republics care, where he was tortured, experimented on, and left to die. Day escaped and has been living on the streets since his 10th birthday, stealing what he can, and causing chaos for the Republic. The Republic publicises his name around the city, advertising him as a criminal and, should he be seen, to be shot on sight. Day has spent his life hiding from the Republic and in doing so, also hiding from his family who believe him to be dead. He is alienated from all types of social contact due to the controlling society in which he lives in. The Republic drive him into isolation by promoting him to the population of the city as a person to be feared, as someone who poses a threat to them.  What is uncovered later in the book, is that Day scored 1500 on his Trail, a score no-one has ever gotten. So why would they lie about his score and say that he had died? Day is a prodigy for the Republic, but his score is unlike any other that the city has seen before. The Republic falsified his record to get rid of him. The Republic needed to eliminate the possibility that someone from a poor sector could score so high on their Trial. Each division is put in their place for a reason and the Republic sees to it that it stays that way. They need control and order over the citizens, with the poor doing the city’s hard labour, and the upper classes going to university and become doctors or lawyers. To have someone from the poor sector become the only person to have scored so high is seen as a disgrace in the Republics eyes. “That’s why they hate me, why I’m not the most dangerous criminal in the country but the most wanted. I make them look bad.” The Republic uses their power of influence over the country to convince the residents that this boy is bad, and that anyone that opposes their rules and their way of living is considered the enemy. They do this because the people within this government feel the need to be superior over minor groups and individuals; they will alienate those groups to sustain their power. We can learn from this that the enemy is defined as something that is the opposite of that group’s beliefs, a group or individual that rivals the practices and systems put in place by this society. The enemy is not defined as bad until they challenge what the society believe in and thus have no real definition until the controlling community makes it so. I can relate this text to ‘Gathering Blue’, written by Lois Lowry, in that they both have governments that exclude people for their own benefit and appearance, and label the one who challenges their law as the enemy. Both communities consider themselves to be morally superior. The reason for alienation in both characters is due to the individual being a difference in the norm, a flaw in their perfect law.  However, ‘Legend’ is different to ‘Gathering Blue’, in that the community in “Gathering Blue’ is a small society filled with people who live their lives with savagery and self-interest.” They live without any modern development, in simple dwellings, they hunt wild animals and have no technology to connect them to the outside world. The community enforces its rules by humiliating and cutting the individual off from their society, because of the lack of community members to keep their population under control. The community of ‘Legend’ differs in that their superior population is the very thing they use to stay in power. If it were not for the masses amounts of guards, security officials, politicians and wealthy residents, the Republic would have been overthrow many years past. The driving motive for the Republic is not that they care for the citizens they harbour in their city, but the power that is given to them with this position in the Republic’s government. 

The fourth and final text that I have chosen is “The Maze Runner”, written by James Dashner. This text tells the story of a boy named Thomas, who is taken from his family at the age of 7 to be experimented on, to be used by a group called WICKED. This story is set in a disease ridden world that has been in ruins for many years, with a virus called the ‘Flare’ rooting itself in the brains of humans, driving them insane. A government group called ‘WICKED’ is looking for a cure to this virus, and they do this by taking children who are immune to it, and performing psychological and physical experimentation on them. The children undergo many torturous experiments, with no avail in finding a cure; until one of the members of the organisation suggests a plan to give them the results they have been working so hard to find, a ‘Trial’, with only the best of the children coming out alive. Four years later a maze has been build, an artificial world to test the children to their limit. Before the children are sent into the maze, their memories are wiped of all knowledge of who they are, where they are, and any memories of their previous life. There are sent in, one by one, one month apart, with no knowledge of how they got there. And now we come back to Thomas, who is the last of the children to be sent into the Maze, and who wakes up in the Maze three years after the Trials started. We can see the theme ‘a controlling government causes people to feel alienated from society’ in a quite literal sense, the government purposefully imprisoning the children, and alienating them from everything they used to know. Many things contribute to the feeling of alienation in Thomas, a leading one being his loss of memories. With nothing familiar, no family or friends, he is left with a hollow sense of isolation, and it is the very same for the other children. WICKED is ultimately cutting of the kids from their own humanity. “If anything, it gives us even more reason to get out butts out there. If the sun’s really gone, won’t be long before plants and animals drop dead too. I think the desperation level just went up a notch.” WICKED is forcing the boys into more desperate reactions to get the results they need. They are manipulating them into dire situations for the benefit of themselves and by upping the desperation level, they are getting the very thing they want. But what is never told to us is how exactly the results from this test are going to create a cure for the flare. The few remaining safe citizens are putting their trust into an organisation that hasn’t even proved that a cure is possible. In the way, WICKED is controlling everyone. They use the promise of a remedy as a controlling mechanism, for the people don’t have anything else to put their hope towards. Desperate people do irrational things, and the same is shown through the kids within the maze. “At that moment, Thomas realised with a sickening lurch that he had no idea how old he was. His heart sank at the thought- he was so lost he didn’t even know his own age.” This quote shows how this organisation is controlling quite literally every single aspect of his life. The complete isolation of these children is affecting them in such a way that they feel disconnected, alienated, from every part of themselves. We can see a very similar theme running through the book ‘Legend’. Where, if you fail the Trail taken at age 10, then you are cut off from society and taken into the Republics care. You are experimented on for the benefit of the Republic and if you don’t provide the results they are looking for, then you are quickly discarded. Both books control the minority by alienating them and manipulating them into situations for a personal gain. This teaches us that if a group or individual sees an opportunity in you that can provide them with something they need, then they will use you until you can no longer offer what they seek. We can also see this happening in the real world, with bullying being a prime example of tormenting an individual for a personal gain, and having control over them. In a way, not only a controlling government, but a controlling individual, can be the cause of alienation in a person. If Thomas had known of the fake reality that they were in, being stuck in the maze, then he could of used this knowledge as an advantage to defy the organisation, and deny the results they are looking for. However there’s no telling what this outcome would produce, having said previously that a government with no use for its subjects generally disposes of them. In many dystopian novels, there is not much the protagonist can do, with the usual situation being that in either outcome, whether they choose to rival the antagonist, or stay in the cruel situation they have been forced into, both will result in some sort of calamity. In Thomas’s case, he can either live within the governments boundaries, or defy them and risk death, or even the torture they experienced as kids.

At the end I can undeniably state that the governments across these texts use their population and status to control those around them, specifically those that are either seen as a threat, or an asset. A government or group needs to have an enemy to keep their people believing in their systems and keep them on track. If the society has a common enemy, then it is much easier for them to strive towards a common goal. The theme ‘A controlling government causes people to feel alienated’ is shown throughout the texts ‘Gathering Blue’ by Lois Lowry, ‘The Giver’, by Lois Lowry, ‘Legend’, by Marie Lu, and ‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner. To conclude, the characters across my texts all experienced alienation in the face of a controlling government. In order for members of a society to feel superior, they will alienate, manipulate and isolate minor groups and individuals, to keep the citizens within their society to keep standing by them, and define any who rival their systems, an enemy.

One Reply to “Significant Connections”

  1. Lillian, this is a good essay thus far. I know that you will have to work hard to get this finished, but your initial theme and selection of texts are strong – well done. There are places where you could be more specific. I.e. I am not sure that all of your plot details for “Gathering Blue” are clear, but your final statements for each text are good. Make sure that you get your connections finished 🙂 I look forward to reading the finished product.

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