What is Jonas's assignment in The Giver?

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litteacher8's profile pic

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

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Jonas is assigned to be the next Receiver of Memory.

In Jonas’s community, all children are given an assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve.  This assignment will lead them throughout their lives.  Jonas is not given an assignment at the same time as his classmates.  He is worried and confused when his name is skipped.  Then he is told he has been selected as the new Receiver of Memory.

The Receiver was the most important Elder. Jonas had never even seen him, that he knew of; someone in a position of such importance lived and worked alone. (ch 2, p. 14)

The Receiver of Memory is an honorable job.  This person advises the community, because he or she keeps all of the community’s memories and therefore has wisdom.  The wisdom is largely due to the pain from the memories that the rest of the community would prefer to shield itself from.

As Receiver of Memory, Jonas learns all of his perfect community’s dirty little secrets.  Eventually he is so horrified by them that he decides to leave, returning the memories to the people.


Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book) (p. 14). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.


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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"'Jonas has not been assigned . . . Jonas has been selected . . . Such a selection is very, very rare,' the Chief Elder told the audience" (60).

Jonas is selected to be the Receiver-in-Training because he has been observed by the elders, especially by the current Receiver of Memory, and has demonstrated that he has all of the qualities needed in order to be successful. The Chief Elder says that Jonas has intelligence, integrity, courage, and the ability to "see beyond," which will help him to acquire wisdom as he trains with the Receiver. Jonas will be set apart from his peers in order to be successful in his training. He will bear the burdens of the whole world on his shoulders, and this is amazing because he starts this training as a twelve-year-old! That's a lot to ask for one so young. Over the course of the book, Jonas trains for a year before he learns enough about the community to decide he does not want to accept this assignment. In fact, he chooses to completely change the community that raised him and start a new era—one that won't need a Receiver of Memory.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The first answer is clearly correct.  The job that Jonas is assigned to is the job of Receiver of Memory.

The job of Receiver of Memory is unique in this community.  It shows the essential weakness of the “sameness” that the community has created.  The Receiver has to hold all of the memories of the way things used to be before sameness was imposed.  He or she needs to hold those memories because the community might need them at some point.  They might find that, in imposing sameness, they did away with something that they really needed.  By having a Receiver of Memory, they protect themselves from this possibility.

But this means that the community cannot really have complete sameness.  It has to have the memories of the past intact just in case.  That leaves it vulnerable.  It relies on one person to bear the pain of the memories without cracking.  When Jonas receives the memories, he is unable to deal with the pain and is also unable to accept the sameness.  He has it in his power to single-handedly destroy the community by running away and giving the memories back to all the people.

Thus, Jonas’s assignment is the most important job in the community and the most dangerous.  His job is Receiver of Memory.

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