The Giver, first page.


It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be
frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant
that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to
happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an
unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He
had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen
the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a
second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one
more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the
same plane.

At first, he had been only fascinated. He had never seen
aircraft so close, for it was against the rules for Pilots to fly
over the community. Occasionally, when supplies were de-
livered by cargo planes to the landing field across the river, the
children rode their bicycles to the riverbank and watched,
intrigued, the unloading and then the takeoff directed to the
west, always away from the community.

But the aircraft a year ago had been different. It was not a
squat, fat-bellied cargo plane but a needle-nosed single-pilot
jet. Jonas, looking around anxiously, had seen others — adults
as well as children — stop what they were doing and wait,
confused, for an explanation of the frightening event.

Admittedly, this isn’t going well, even as far as youth fiction goes… Our early curiousity and intrigue born of the first paragraph has transmogrified into an ugly suspension of disbelief. Things that are out-and-out frightening to not only children but also adults are those that are completely unknown, clearly dangerous, or at least obviously out-of-context. Given how accurately Jonas is able to identify the “frightening” plane as being “a needle-nosed single-pilot jet” despite it being “almost a blur at its high speed” is more than a bit odd.

It’s kinda weird that everyone knows what a jet is, what it looks like, what it does, that its appearance in-flight is highly unusual (a no-more-than-once-a-decade sort of thing), that all it did was fly overhead a couple time, and that this made everyone shit their collective pants. I mean, why are he and the adults so frightened just because some “rules” are being broken. How do earthworms even know what rules Pilots are bound to ? Talk about lecturing birds how to fly! Furthermore, why are “Pilots” spelled with a capital “P” anyways ? Why are they priviledged so ? And given their priviledge, why aren’t they allowed to fly where they want, when they want ? What kind of hamstrung priviledge is this ??!

This exercise started off so well! But I guess that the scything expectations of logical consistency are different for youth and adults. That’s probably a good thing. Everything has its time and place.

It might be fun to try this experiment on something more mature, like Dante or Nabokov. Until then…

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