Individualism is putting one’s personal needs and goals above those of the collective group or society. It is also defining one’s personal identity based on personal attributes and traits rather than being defined by the attributes of the group or society.
In Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the main character Jonas exemplifies individualism. His society values sameness and conformity; no abnormality is permitted. If twins are born, one is euthanized to preserve sameness. Jonas at first accepts this way of life, but as he reaches his adolescent years he starts to question and is seeing glimpses of color, a phenomenon that has long been erased from his society. Jonas starts to think for himself and form his identity based on his own skills and knowledge rather than what his society tells him his identity should be. In the end he puts his own needs and goals above the society’s and leaves, taking a young child who would have been euthanized with him.
This example portrays individualism because Jonas develops his identity separate from the society, and he forms it based on his own attributes and traits, such as his ability to feel compassion and sorrow for the babies who are euthanized and his ability to see color. Jonas also exemplifies individualism by putting his own goals and needs above those of the society. The societal goal for absolute conformity calls for the death of one baby in a set of twins, but Jonas’ feelings of compassion and sorrow create his goal to save the babies. He puts his own goal first and saves baby Gabriel. He also rebels against a life of complete conformity and, putting his own needs first, leaves his home to search for a new place in which his individualism can be accepted.