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The Refusal of the Gift (The Giver) II

“Do not give a heart I may not receive.”


But if a gift is not ignored and acknowledged by the recipient (the letter read, the present opened) how else may the givee not complete the givenness of the gift than by simply refusing it, by – after gazing at it and knowing it -- totally rejecting it as a gift, that is, to say ‘no’ to it?

A gift may be refused by the givee because of contempt (“too little,” “too late,” “too much,” “too soon”), mistrust (“there is something fishy here,” “what does he want in return?”) or pure malice (to shatter the giver when he is most vulnerable, that is, to refuse not only the gift but the giver as well). Whatever the reason may be, as Marion says, what is decisive in the reception (and completion) of the gift no longer resides in the perfection of the gift (and therefore, in the giver as well) but in the givee who must decide either to accept it (reception) or decline it (refusal). The gift is complete in its thinglike (objective, total) status: wholly there and wholly there to be received (or refused).

Marion gives the example of the Trojan horse the Greeks presented the Trojans as gift. The beauty of this gift is uncontestable: it was perfectly material (something to be touched and a spectacle to behold), completely available (it was left for them to take it) and brought forward (presented) to them, mobile (deliverable) and more importantly, it was a token of the Greeks’ surrender to them (a memorial of and testament to the Trojan victory); in other words, it was a perfect gift by itself and in itself. To be sure, it was perfect – even a perfect deception; but it would not be complete as gift if it was not willed, that is, if it was not decided that it be received.

Thus Marion says of perfect yet incomplete gifts:

The lack is not owing to anything real that is already perfectly acquired. What’s lacking is only its pure and simple acceptance: that the Trojans indeed want the horse from the Greeks… only acquiescence is lacking, the decision to receive.

To decide to accept the gift: this means to carry the gift’s weight – to re-group one’s self so as to balance the weight of the gift with the ecstatic but weightless ego; to gaze at its spectacle even if it may be too much for one’s eyes to behold; and to finally take it as one’s own – to take it to the house of hearts knowing fully well that it was always underserved, that it is but need not be.

In a word, to accept the gift is to perhaps accept the humility that gratitude brings.


The givee never asked for the gift yet it is she who decides. In turn, the beloved never asked for the gift of love (the gift of self) from the lover yet she can refuse it and reject it if she so chooses – on a whim; because something is more important: a career, an other, her self; because she could not carry the weight of the gift and the lightness of its glorious givenness; because she unable to humiliate her self with gratitude.

And all this while, the giver who is absent, waits. Not in the manner that the Greeks inside the horse waited for the dead of night to disperse and wreak havoc inside the walls of Troy; no. The lover, exhausted by the giving that gave so as to truly love, waits weightless. He floats.

He floats weightless because all that he had and all that he was were already given. To be sure, his gift may have been ignored or even refused or more tragically, it may have been returned. Yet the giver does not know how to receive where to receive what was returned would be to take back for himself what he had himself freely given as gift to the givee, to an Other, to the beloved.

The giver waits weightless because he has accomplished perfection in giving a perfect gift. And that can never be taken away from him – for what else can be taken from him who already gave everything?


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