Exploring the Themes of Delirium by Lauren Oliver – Review by Elle Scott
L-O-V-E. The four most powerful letters in all the world. When the letters are pieced together, it creates a word that holds the meaning of the deepest emotion known to man. Love. Love is the very foundation on which humanity stands. Great and terrible wars have raged on in honor of it, taking no heed of the casualties claimed in its wake. Works of epic literature have been woven together to demonstrate the lengths mankind will go to taste its fruit. In the deepest part of our souls, we crave love. Our core aches with longing to understand the meaning of true love and the passion it brings. Whether it is romantic, family ties or even loyalty, we all long to experience it.
Now imagine a society that has deemed love illegal. To them, it is a disease that infects the brain and eventually leads to lunacy. This is the world that the Lauren Oliver’s Delirium is centered around. In the novel, Oliver creates a society that has concluded that love is the reason for all that is wrong with the world. Four World Wars have come and gone and cities throughout the United States have put up boarders to protect their citizens. Travel between cities is restricted and electric fences surround the boarders in an effort to keep everyone safe.
A group of scientists, called the Consortium, have proven that love is a type of mental disorder that affects the part of the brain that allows humans to make rational decisions. They call the disorder, Amor Deliria Nervosa, or the deliria for short. The cure or, procedure, as Oliver alternately calls it, is given at the age of 18 and required for all citizens.
At the beginning of the story, Oliver introduces us to Magdalena Ella Holoway Tiddle, who is the heroine of our story. She is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her procedure because, as the story reveals, she has experienced a tremendous amount of loss in her life. As a result of these losses, Magdalena, or Lena, has deep feelings of anxiety that seem to dictate all the decisions in her life. She follows rules, trusts in the procedure, and faithfully reads the Safety, Health and Happiness Handbook (Book of Shhh) which acts at a Bible for all citizens. Lena wants the cure because she desires to feel peace and live her life in neat, predictable routine. She believes with all of her heart that the government’s enactment of the cure is to keep everyone safe. However, all of Lena’s beliefs are shaken to the core when she meets Alex: a boy who opens her eyes to possibilities she never dreamed possible.
As I read Delirium with avid curiosity, I discovered I was drawn into the struggles Lena faced as she tried to find her place in the world. Oliver’s descriptions of Lena’s troubles felt so real and honest. Her internal arguments with herself are struggles we have all faced as we have grown up in our own lives. Even though we are blessed to be living in a society where we can decide our own futures, we still experience our own growing pains as we work to discover our own paths in life.
Throughout the story, Oliver makes it clear that having love in our lives is vital to our survival. She explores many different areas of love that reach far beyond the preconceived romantic type. As I read further into the story, I realized that love fuels our momentum for life. Without love, there would be no passion for anything. We experience love when we engage an in activity we enjoy, take in the beauty of a photograph, delve into the curiosity of learning, and bring a child into this world. If the element of love was removed from us, there would be no way to enjoy these things. As we all know, love can bring an immense amount of pain to our lives. The indescribable torture of the death of a loved one, anxiety of living in fear, and hatred towards someone who has wronged us. These negative emotions that are caused by love, run down to our core and effect us every day.
Admittedly, there were days when I was stressed or upset from the routine of my own day and I found myself thinking it might be nice to have the cure. I wouldn’t have to worry about feelings of pain or fear anymore. I could just live in a warm comfortable numbness for the rest of my days. But, what joy would I find in living that life? I wouldn’t be able to experience the swarm of butterflies that flutter in my stomach every time my husband kisses me. There would be no more laughing with my friends until my sides ached and my eyes watered. My heart would no longer be filled to the brim with excitement as I watched my students discover the joy of learning. These are feelings I would never want to give up. Through Delirium, Oliver reminds us that without struggle, we would never be able to experience the true fulfillment real and honest love has to offer.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to explore these themes or just wants to experience a great dystopian story full of unexpected twists and turns. I found it impossible to stop reading, and when I finally reached the end of the novel I was devastated! I didn’t want it to end! Lucky for you and me, Delirium is the first novel in the Delirium Series. It is followed by Pandemonium and lastly by Requiem. Take the chance on this series. I promise you will LOVE it!
Elle Scott is currently working as a middle school special education teacher in the beautiful state of Arizona. She has a Bachelors Degree in Broadcast Journalism and a Masters Degree in Education. When not in the classroom, she enjoys having adventures with her husband and three adorable dogs, writing, reading, watching movies, and taking pictures. In 2014 she began writing the Persistent Platypus, which is her blog about continually growing positivity into our lives so we can be a light to others when they are lost in dark places.