How does Lois Lowry present Jonas to readers in The Giver?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When we first meet Jonas, he is an eleven year old worried about an upcoming important event.  He is concerned because it is almost December, and he is trying to find the right words to express how he feels.  In doing this, Jonas flashes back to an interesting memory in which a plane mistakenly flew over the community, scaring everyone.

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. (ch 1, p. 1)

Jonas remembers hearing an announcement to go inside, and obeying instantly.  He was frightened then, a “deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen” (p. 1).  From this small event we learn quite a lot.  First, we learn the Jonas is introspective and thoughtful.  He is curious, because at first he was “fascinated” and not scared.

We learn that his society is tightly controlled, and he is accepting of this.  We also learn that people who make mistakes are “released,” but we don’t know what the word means.   Jonas tells us that he Jonas “was careful about language” (p. 3).  He knows that this December will be very special, and he finally determines that he is “apprehensive” (p. 4).

Jonas is the only character who actually appears in the first chapter.  Most of it is Jonas’s thoughts and memories.  By introducing two powerful person memories—the plan flying overhead, and Asher’s apology—we are introduced to the importance of memories and the importance of Jonas to the story.  From the beginning, Jonas is singled out.


Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.


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