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The Use of Euphemisms in Lois Lowry’s Novel

Euphemism is defined by Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary as the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. (Merriam-Webster, 2009) In effect euphemism is a figurative language used to mask something that is unpleasant, rude or offensive. In Lois Lowry’s Novel, “The Giver,” there is heavy and prevalent use of euphemisms.

The fact that this story is about a community where there is a ‘controlled environment,’ euphemisms are almost as commonplace as regular language for the people within the community. An example of this is the ‘job titles’ for the citizens in the community; Birthmother, Nurturer, and of course the Receiver/Giver. Euphemisms were used to ‘soften’ the harshness of the daily affairs of men and women in a communal controlled environment where Jonas and his family are living in. One important euphemism is used in the “Ceremony of Release.

” This is used to refer to the process of ‘killing-off’ people who are either too old, those who commit infractions of the law repeatedly, young babies found unfit for living in the community, and all other ‘misfits’ who do not conform to the standards set forth by the Elders in the community. This euphemism for killing, whether as a result of old age or ‘criminality’ is used to create a ‘sedated’ effect, in a community supposedly devoid of the complexities of human emotions. The reasons given for the necessity of a “Ceremony of Release” are also euphemism to shield the real impact of such killings.

Personally, I think such euphemism is used to further bolster the ‘psychedelic/surrealistic’ environment of a ‘perfect’ or utopian community where Jonas lives. In fact, the whole novel itself serves as a euphemistic piece to hide or soften the whole work as a Euphemism 3 social commentary on socialism/communism, and even reflective of a society we live in today, where materialism and the pursuit for ‘materialistic happiness’ and success trump the importance of feelings and emotions.

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