Messenger is a 2004 young adult fiction by author Lois Lowry. It forms the third installment of The Giver Quartet, begun by her 1993 Newbery Medal-winning novel The Giver. It takes place about eight years after the events of The Giver and about six years after the events of Gathering Blue. Characters from the two earlier books reappear in Messenger, which gives the novels a stronger continuity.
Set in an isolated community, known simply as Village, "Messenger" focuses upon a boy, Matty, who serves as message-bearer through the ominous and lethal Forest, which surrounds the community.Plot
Matty was introduced in Gathering Blue as an energetic and impatient individual, who is undergoing a transition into adulthood as the story begins. Matty now lives with Seer, originally named Christopher, an "unseeing" man rescued by the people of the Village years before. Matty is desperate for his new name to be "Messenger," which is what he feels he is best at doing.
Many of the people in Village are like Seer and are cast out from their old communities and sometimes seriously injured, but they have made themselves new homes in Village. Most of the Villagers are reasonably altruistic, and Village never lacks in people who are willing to help another Villager overcome some disability. Matty is from a community in which people know only what the Community tells them and those who do not fit the norm are usually put to death.
Outside the safe boundaries of Village is the Forest, a foreboding realm that most of the Villagers fear. In spite of the lack of dangerous beasts, Forest itself is animated. It is capable of delivering "Warnings" in the form of injuries, caused by such things as sharp twigs, stinging insects, or poisonous plants, all of which attack deliberately if Forest is entered. Those who enter Forest again after being warned are killed. Forest will kill them. Matty, whom Forest seems to favor, has gone through Forest many times without incident. Therefore, he has become Village's messenger, carrying word to the other communities scattered throughout the region. At one point, Leader (Jonas from The Giver) says that he received a barge full of books from the Community and that it has changed.
Very early in the book, discord appears in Village. People who trade at a gathering, Trade Mart, change from being compassionate and generous to angry and impatient. The temperament of Villagers changes, and they decide to close their borders and stop permitting the displaced and unwanted of other communities to enter. Seer, in the wake of this sudden change, decides to send Matty to travel through the Forest to retrieve his daughter, Kira, who lives in a town several days away. The journey soon becomes gravely perilous, as the Forest begins to attempt to entangle Kira and Matty. Leader's ability of remote viewing, which the book often refers to as "seeing beyond," allows him to sense the danger. He enters the forest to save them, only to be captured himself. Kira, who has the ability to weave prophecy-like patterns in thread and cloth, uses her gift to contact Leader, who tells her to have Matty use his gift to save them.
The gift is a special ability that Matty possesses but hardly understands, which makes him mad and results in a fury: a power of healing, which causes wholeness from the inside out. Matty puts his hands to the ground and manages to restore the integrity of Forest and people alike, at the expense of his own life. Leader names Matty as "the Healer."
Near the end is a quotation from the poem To An Athlete Dying Young: "Today, the road all runners come/Shoulder-high we bring you home/And set you at your threshold down/Townsman of a stiller town." It is spoken by the Village's schoolteacher, known as Mentor.Main characters
- Matty has a special gift that he uncovers and was introduced in Gathering Blue. He came to Village when he was younger because he had been looking for blue dye as a gift for Kira. He stumbled upon Village and was welcome there with open arms. He became Village's messenger, as he is one of the few people who is allowed through Forest unharmed.
- Seer is Christopher, a blind man first introduced in Gathering Blue. He is wise and can remember and hear very well. He is Matty's guardian, who lives with him and helps to take care of him. He is also father to Kira.
- Kira is Seer's daughter and the main character of Gathering Blue. She lives in a nearby village, and when the Villagers vote to close Village to newcomers, Matty crosses Forest to get her so that she can come live with her father. She was born with a crooked leg.
- Leader is Jonas, the main character of The Giver. Gabe, the boy Jonas took with him on his escape in that book, briefly appears in Messenger as well. Jonas is in charge of Village and has the gift of future sight. He is wise and helps Matty with advice.
- Mentor is the school teacher in Village. He is also the main proponent to closing Village to newcomers.
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