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Literary Terms and Devices in The Giver

Below are some literary devices present in Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Take a minute to formulate a working definition of your identified devices. Consider how you would present this term/device to a group of middle school students in a way they could understand it. For example, how might you connect it to their prior knowledge, experiences, pop culture, etc.? What language would you use to relay a definition to them?

After formulating a working definition and ideas for presentation, find some examples in The Giver. Be prepared to present these back to the class.

1. symbol / imagery / allegory – objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts

  • The Newchild Gabriel – hope and starting over

  • The Sled – the journey Jonas takes during his training and the discoveries he makes

  • The River – escape from the confines of the community

  • The Color Red – Jonas is seeing passion, fire, and love

  • Light Eyes an artistic device to indicate those who can receive memories

2. setting – the general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which action occurs

  • an isolated community in the future

3. narrator point of view – the way the story gets told

  • third person (limited omniscient)

4. genre – dystopian literature, science fiction

5. tone – the expression of the speaker’s “attitude to his listener” (Abrams, 156); through subtle clues reveals an author’s conception of and attitudes toward the things he/she is talking about; also reveals assumptions about the social level, intelligence, and sensitivity of the speaker.

  • Lowry described it as “seductive” in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech – because she wants to draw the reader in.

6. theme – fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a work

  • The importance of memory – important to human life; connections to pain and pleasure
  • The relationship between pain and pleasure – there can be no pleasure without pain (dualities)

  • The importance of the individual – Ceremony of the Twelve is when children have their differences celebrated for the first time; typically an age where children are struggling to define their individual identity

7. motifs – recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes

  • Vision – sensory and emotional perception

  • Nakedness – physical and emotional nakedness related

  • Release—refers to death in Jonas’ society, but throughout the novel it means different things to different people


Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms (6th edition). Harcourt Brace, 1993. Print.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Giver.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2003. Web. 18 Jan. 2010.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Bill Hamilton
    February 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I found flashback used frequently as Jonas related his different experiences and progressions through his age groups. To tie flashback to school age student readers, I heve used movies and television programs that they are familiar with to model the use of flashback.

    Foreshadowing created an oppressive dread throughout the book. Just like in the exposition portion of a horror movie, implications lead to the coming horrors. It is an easy task to have middle age students prove what they know about foreshadowing by simply leading a group discussion and let them offer examples.

    There was occational use of characterization such as Lily saying that the visiting boys acted “like animals” even though she did not even know what an animal was. Most middle school age readers can readily give examples that characterize individuals, groups, and situations, so I would just ask them to brainstorm and come up with a list.

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