In my previous posts, I juxtaposed the philosophies of The Giver to those of Plato, Socrates, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. However, there is another theme I noticed that builds upon this theme of philosophy: Skepticism. The famous movie The Matrix utilizes a similar plotline to that of Lois Lowry’s dystopian setting.
It has been several years since I have seen The Matrix franchise, but after reading a summary and multiple analyses of its philosophy, I will do my best to interpret its connection (I could write a whole post on The Matrix’s philosophical influences, but I have chosen not to). One major theme that both works share is, like I said, skepticism. Knowing what is real from simulation plays a key role in The Matrix. Neo is the few that sees the world for how it really is. As with Jonas, everyone around him is living a simulation–a reflection of the true world. The notorious “simulation theory” that states all of us are being controlled in a computer simulation can be found in both the book and the movie. When Neo is released from the mainframe and enters the real world, he is no longer imprisoned in his ignorance. Likewise, Jonas, as he gathers more and more wisdom and memories, finds himself exiting the simulation. He, like Neo, is able to escape from this false reality. I read an interesting New York Times post as well as a brilliantly written SparkNotes article that, in a fashion similar to mine, compares the Matrix to Socrates, Plato, and Descartes (I highly recommend reading my first two The Giver posts and my post on Descartes for more insight). One thing all three of these philosophers have in common is uncertainty; skepticism. Both articles that I mentioned use Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and theory of Forms. Something they said, which I seem to have missed, is Descartes’ “Evil Genius.” The Matrix itself is that little devil inside our heads that has been misleading us this whole time. Unfortunately, Neo cannot blame his peers for believing lies, because Descartes claims we are all living a dream. A simulation.
Another concept that the Wachowskis enforced was a “resurrection.” In an interview with the folks at Movie City News, Lana Wachowski said about the first film, “Neo goes from being in this sort of cocooned and programmed world, to having to participate in the construction of meaning to his life.” Pretty deep, huh? In the giver, we see the same exact thing happening to Jonas. The twelve-year-old boy escapes his sheltered and predestined life and finds he must give his and Gabriel’s life meaning. By forgetting his community to find the Elsewhere, Jonas has left behind his cocoon to become, metaphorically, a butterfly. It can be debated what the Elsewhere really is; it could be death itself, it could be a new start, who knows? I personally interpret it as the darker ending, but with brighter results. In terms of The Matrix, it could be the real world that Neo awakens to. Another notion I have in relation to The Giver’s ending is this concept of a paradigm shift, another intention of the Wachowskis. In agreement with other theorists, I interpret Jonas and Gabriel’s probable death as a catalyst. When Jonas finds the true world, the reality, his memories have come to life; he is in a better place. He and his “brother” may have entered Heaven, but their memories have brought change to the community. Echoing Kierkegaard and Nietzsche’s existentialism, Jonas has created a paradigm shift by going against the norm and against society for the greater good. He and Neo defied what was generally accepted to relieve the people of their ignorance. Both characters are trapped in a simulation, then they are freed to understand their worlds, only to find that they are the Ones that must make a change.
For further reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/24/movies/philosophers-draw-on-a-film-drawing-on-philosophers.html
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)