The Giver is set in an isolated community at an unspecified point in the future. Although the exact events that triggered the formation of this community are unknown, the reader can infer through The Giver’s explanations that generations ago, the community’s founders created this utopian experiment to make life safe and pleasant for all its residents. The community achieves this utopia by enforcing Sameness, an idealistic lack of diversity accomplished through rules, rituals, and technology. Within the community, everything appears grayscale, eliminating the possibility of color-based discrimination of anything. Engineers meticulously control the environment to allow for optimal crop production and personal comfort. The community’s government of elders assigns citizens similar houses and bicycles, and standardizes clothing to avoid jealousy. The elders strictly regiment and monitor the lives of all citizens. Underpinning this strict control are many rules, and three serious transgressions against these rules lead to “release,” the community’s word for euthanasia.
While Lowry does not go into great detail concerning the physical appearance of the community, she describes the regimented structure of society and, most of all, its rules. Because society also serves as the antagonist that Jonas struggles against, the setting becomes a character itself, with Lowry characterizing the community as authoritarian and impersonal. Instead of allowing families to organically form, the elders match people into heterosexual couples, who then “apply” for two children. Specific women are selected to serve as Birthmothers, and a team of Nurturers looks after the newchildren until the December of their birth year, when the elders match them with parents. After both children come of age, the parents move to the house of Childless Adults, and then eventually to the House of the Old. This cold and clinical way of creating a family contrasts with Jonas’s later vision of love, and helps the reader understand what this setting of Sameness has cost the citizens.