Lowry's The Giver was published to critical acclaim, particularly from The Horn Book magazine which printed an unprecedented editorial praising the book, as well as an additional rave review, and, later in the same year, a critical essay about it. Early in 1994, the book won the Newbery Medal, awarded annually by the American Library Association for the best American book published for children or young adults.
The novel is a suspenseful story with a gripping and controversial ending, one which will sustain the interest of young adult readers. It also deals with important social issues, including the value of the individual, the importance of remembering the past, the dangers of personal manipulation through language and social conditioning, and the need for both "color" and music. The Giver also compares favorably to a number of important adult books which use future societies to question an apparent devaluation of the individual in our present culture. At the same time, it is accessible to younger readers and its ending should prompt some thought-provoking discussion.
(The entire section is 171 words.)
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The Allure of a Perfect World
Lois Lowry's The Giver tells the story of Jonas, who lives in a futuristic society and who, until the age of twelve, has led a peaceful and normal, albeit regulated, life. Jonas has two parents, a mother who is happily employed at the Department of Justice, and a father who is happily employed as a Nurturer. Jonas occasionally quarrels with his younger sister Lily, and he enjoys riding his bicycle, visiting with his friends Asher and Fiona, and musing about his future. In Jonas's world, everything (from an individual's desire, to the weather, to a person's career) is regulated. The community's rulers see to it, for example, that every member of this nameless, timeless community occupies a productive role in the society. The plot of The Giver develops out of Jonas's changing perceptions towards his community after he is selected to be the Receiver of Memory and discovers that nothing about his idyllic community is what it seems to be.
In Jonas's community, a child receives a professional assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, at which time s/he becomes an adult. Jonas, who has waited apprehensively to find out what his assignment will be, grows increasingly agitated during his long-awaited Ceremony. His friends have received desirable and appropriate assignments like "Fish Hatchery Attendant," and "Assistant Director of Recreation," but it appears that he, Jonas, has been bypassed. Finally, after all...
(The entire section is 1145 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
When Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver opens, December is coming and Jonas is confused about his feelings. He does not feel frightened.
He felt frightened once before, a year ago when a jet flew over the community. Everyone in the community had seen planes pick up and drop off cargo, but a needle-nosed jet was something out of the ordinary. Every member of the community stopped to watch the jet and wait for instructions. Before long, a voice announced via loudspeaker that everyone should take cover in a nearby building. Obediently, everyone in the community got off of their bicycles and entered a nearby building. The stillness of the waiting community made Jonas feel frightened.
The voice quickly returned to announce that the jet pilot made a simple navigational mistake. For this infraction, it was announced, he would be “released” from the community. The people found this reassuring, though it certainly was not good news for the pilot. Release from the community is the worst thing that can happen, unless the person is old and the release is a celebration of that person's accomplishments in life. At school, students who joke about release are dealt with sternly.
Jonas notes that it is important to use the correct words to describe his feelings. He recalls an incident in which his friend, Asher, arrived to school late. He apologized to his community and explained that he felt distraught watching fishermen separate salmon. However, although the class automatically accepted his apology, Jonas’s teacher explained that distraught is too strong a word to use when describing this experience; a better word would be distracted.
Considering his year's group, Jonas finally realizes that all of the Elevens feel similar about December, and it strikes him that he feels “apprehensive.”
Emotions are a confusing topic, so Jonas is fortunate that his family shares their feelings every day after supper. Usually, Jonas and his sister argue over who goes first, but this night Jonas invites Lily to start. Lily explains that she felt angry while at school because a boy from another community kept ignoring the line to use the slide. She even makes a fist. Lily’s family helps her see how the boy could have been ignorant of the rules because he comes from another community. In fact, he probably felt stupid for not knowing the rules, which makes him an object of pity rather than...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Jonas’s parents attempt to reassure him about the Ceremony of Twelve. His father explains that it is natural to feel apprehension, but he also points out that Jonas usually enjoys the ceremony. It is true that Jonas enjoys watching the ceremony, especially the naming.
Jonas’s father is a Nurturer, and he shares his own experiences related to the ceremony. When he was young, Jonas’s father had a pretty good idea of what his assignment would be. Although he had participated in bicycle races with other boys, he had spent most of his volunteer hours in the childcare center. Jonas and his mother are surprised to hear that Jonas’s father had been so confident of his assignment, but he admits that he still felt apprehension during the ceremony. In fact, he had only really paid attention to his younger sister, a Nine, who received her bicycle that year.
It is against the rules to ride a bicycle before becoming a Nine, but Jonas’s father admits that he had been teaching his sister to ride a bicycle before the ceremony. This is such a common infraction that some people have proposed lowering the age at which children can ride bicycles. A committee has begun to look into the matter, which means that the rule will likely not be changed. The Elders rarely agree to change a rule, and when they do it is only after an extended period of deliberation. Sometimes, they will consult the Receiver, the most important of the Elders, but usually the rules remain unchanged. Still, everyone trusts the Elders to make good decisions for the community, even for boys like Jonas’s friend Asher. Asher is always focused on having fun but has few other interests.
Jonas’s mother shares her own experiences related to the Ceremony of Twelve. One thing that Jonas should be preparing himself for is the change in his education. Up to this point, he has been given a lot of time for recreation with his friends. Now he will be asked to devote more of his time to his studies in preparation for his assignment. He will not have time for his year's group, and he might even forget his age in time. All of this makes Jonas wonder whether he will still have time for recreation after the ceremony.
Jonas’s father has time for play, but that may be because he is a Nurturer. Even if he mostly plays peek-a-boo, Jonas’s father has an important job. Although he did not break rules to learn whether Lily would be the child assigned to his...
(The entire section is 521 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Recently, Jonas’s father has been concerned for one of the children in his care who is not developing fast enough. If the struggling male does not develop more quickly, he may be released. This is always a sad decision that will leave the community wondering what could have been. Jonas’s father has even looked up the child’s assigned name, though it is still unofficial. The child is Gabriel, or Gabe, as Jonas’s father likes to call him, and his “comfort object” is a strange creature called a “hippo.” Jonas’s father is bringing Gabe home with him temporarily in the hopes that some extra attention will help him develop.
Lily notices that Gabe’s eyes are strange in the same way that Jonas’s are. Both of the children have light colored eyes, whereas the majority of the community has darker eyes. Jonas is annoyed at Lily’s comment, which is not against the rules but is insensitive because people in the community rarely mention things that can be “unsettling.” He reflects that Lily’s insensitive chatter will soon result in a chastisement or perhaps a public announcement meant to embarrass her in front of her peers.
Public announcements are made to remind everyone of the rules, but they are often directed at a single person. Jonas recalls with embarrassment a time when he was the intended audience of a public announcement. He had been throwing an apple back and forth with his friend Asher, but he noticed that the apple changed somehow in midair. After several throws, he noticed the anomaly again, though Asher had noticed nothing. When Jonas took the apple home for further study, a public announcement was made reminding people to not take goods from the recreation area and to not hoard food.
Jonas reflects that the announcers always speak in a self-important tone. Perhaps this is the assignment that would be best for Lily. She is always talking, even now when Gabe is sleeping. However, Lily is just excited about the new child in their house. A family unit can only have two children, so Gabe is a temporary addition. Still, Gabe’s presence leads Lily to wonder aloud whether she should become a birthmother.
Lily’s mother rebukes her for considering adopting the life of a birthmother. Birthmothers carry little respect. Although they are pampered for a few years, after they have given birth to three children they are assigned hard labor until they are old. Jonas’s father...
(The entire section is 442 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Jonas is riding his bicycle down the streets of his community. The Celebration of Twelve is nearly upon him, and he has resolved to spend his last volunteer hours near his friend Asher. Jonas does not always choose to spend his volunteer hours with his friend because Asher sometimes struggles to take things seriously. Jonas reflects that he has experienced a little of everything in the community through volunteer work.
Some children are different. Benjamin, for example, spends almost all his time in the Rehabilitation Center. He has spent so much time there that he has even developed new techniques for helping people recover after their injuries. Although Jonas would never compliment Benjamin on his skills because it could potentially lead to bragging, he admires Benjamin for his accomplishments. Benjamin will almost certainly be assigned to Rehabilitation, whereas Jonas’s broad focus of volunteer hours has not left him with a clear future. Still, this is better than having too few volunteer hours. Jonas once heard a story that an Eleven did not receive an assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve and had to work privately afterward. That Eleven was disgraced.
Jonas finds Asher’s bicycle leaning, rather than standing neatly like it is supposed to, against the House of the Old. Fiona, a female Eleven, is there as well. Jonas enters the house and begins to take care of Larissa, an elderly woman. As Jonas bathes Larissa, she tells him about Roberto’s release celebration. Some people’s release celebrations are not very interesting, Larissa admits. She explains that one woman, Edna, was a birthmother for three years and then worked in Food Distribution for the rest of her life. She was not even allowed a family unit. Larissa jokes that maybe Edna was not very smart.
In contrast, Roberto had a wonderful life, one that was truly worthy of celebration before his release. He was a teacher of Elevens, which is quite important. He also worked on the Planning Committee and designed the Central Plaza. (Of course, he did not actually do any labor to build it.) Roberto also raised two very successful children. Larissa is impressed, as is Jonas, and she reflects that Roberto’s face exuded pure happiness as he was released from the community. Sadly, there is not really enough space in the Releasing Room for anyone but the old to attend. Jonas jokes that maybe they should propose a change over which the committee can...
(The entire section is 412 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
When Jonas’s family unit finishes supper, each member of the unit shares their difficult emotions from the day. The routine brings the family together, and it also allows Jonas’s parents to monitor the development of their children, not to mention guiding them through difficult times. The family follows a similar routine each morning after breakfast. Instead of sharing their emotions, this time they share their dreams.
As always, young Lily insists on going first. She shares her dream in a long, drawn-out way that allows her to be the focus of attention. Jonas’s mother has had troubling dreams in which she worries that she has broken an obscure rule, which every member of the family agrees likely has resulted from the difficulties she has had punishing a repeat offender in her job at the Department of Justice. Jonas’s father has no dreams to share, nor does Gabe, the struggling infant Jonas’s father has brought home. Normally, dream sharing begins when one is a Three.
Jonas rarely dreams, but this morning he does have a dream to tell. As with his feelings of apprehension earlier, Jonas is once again confused about what is going on inside of him. His dream takes place in the House of the Old, where he volunteered to bathe the elderly the day before. In his dream, however, he was not bathing an elderly woman; he was trying to convince his friend Fiona to take off her clothes so he could bathe her. When Jonas’s father asks about the strongest emotional experience of the dream, Jonas explains that it was the feeling of “wanting.” Even though he knew that what he was trying to convince Fiona to do was probably wrong, he wanted it to happen very badly.
After hearing the story of Jonas’s dream, Jonas’s father invites Lily to walk to school with him and Gabe. Meanwhile, Jonas and his mother stay behind to talk about his dream in more detail. Jonas’s mother explains that what Jonas is experiencing is the beginnings of the “Stirrings,” which happen to everyone. In fact, she and Jonas’s father have been waiting for him to share these feelings for a while. Jonas has heard of the Stirrings before, though he never really thought about what they might be.
In Jonas’s community, once people begin to experience the Stirrings, they are required to take a pill that will neutralize these feelings. Jonas’s parents have been taking these pills for decades, and every adult takes them until...
(The entire section is 471 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Life in Jonas’s community is carefully structured and regulated. When change comes, it is often symbolic and illustrates an important lesson. As the sixth chapter of The Giver opens, Jonas’s mother is tying ribbons into Lily’s hair, which the young Seven dislikes. Lily craves to be independent and adult, and she is very pleased that today is the last day she has to wear ribbons. Jonas has also been looking forward to this day, the Ceremony of Twelve.
Unfortunately for Lily, she is still not old enough to be assigned a bicycle. Still, Jonas reminds her, every year brings changes. This year she receives her jacket with buttons on the front; until their seventh year, children wear jackets with buttons in the back so they can learn the value of interdependence. Meanwhile, the Tens have their hair cut short to signify that they are about to enter the world of adults and that they need to act with greater maturity.
Each year brings changes, and each part of the ceremony is significant, but the most popular part is the Naming, during which children are given to their family units. Jonas’s father is near the stage so he can help present the children to their new caretakers. Jonas’s father is especially happy because Gabriel has been given an extra year to develop. Gabe will even be kept with Jonas’s family for the following year for extra care, though each member of the family had to sign an agreement not to become attached to Gabriel. Most certainly they must be prepared not to complain when Gabriel is given to his family unit the following year.
One naming is particularly moving. A family in Jonas’s community recently lost their child, a Four named Caleb. There was a ceremony of loss during which the entire community chanted Caleb’s name in decreasing volume. By the time their whispers became inaudible, the community had let go of Caleb. Now the community chants “Caleb” for this new child, but in increasing volume. Jonas reflects that “it was as if the first Caleb were returning.” Another child is named Roberto, and Jonas considers this child as the replacement of the man who was recently released at the House of the Old. Of course, there is no chanting for this new Roberto—Loss and Release are not the same.
The community breaks for lunch before the Twelves receive their assignments. Asher is nervous and tells stories of how past Twelves applied for “Elsewhere,” a...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
As the community members return to their seats in the Auditorium, the Ceremony of Twelve begins. Jonas and Asher have felt apprehensive about this moment for a long time, but as with all things, it is a carefully regulated ceremony with many specific traditions and expectations. The Chief Elder explains that childhood in their community is about learning to fit in and conform. During the Ceremony of Twelve, the community acknowledges differences by looking at what people should do to contribute to the community. Some people enjoy labor, some enjoy caring for others, and still others have an aptitude for science.
After this preamble, the Ceremony of Twelve begins. Each Twelve is called to the stage to receive his or her assignment, but they are not called by their names. Instead, they are called by their numbers, which reminds everyone that each child is born to a number. Jonas is 19 or, more specifically, 11-19. At the moment, he actually has a duplicate, a shy female who just this morning earned her new clothes that mark her as an Eleven.
The first Eleven from Jonas’s group is called and receives her assignment: Fish Hatchery Attendant. It is a job Jonas would not prefer, but the young woman seems pleased with her assignment. Another girl is assigned to be a Birthmother, which Jonas’s mother would not want because it lacks prestige. However, Jonas again reflects on the wisdom of the Committee of Elders’s choice. The young woman is strong and will bear children easily. The Committee of Elders makes good choices.
There is a slight change to the ceremony for Asher, during which the Chief Elder shares the process by which the Committee chose his assignment. The community smilingly recalls Asher’s youth, during which he struggled to acquire language, confusing “snack” for “smack.” The mistake resulted in several beatings with the discipline wand. However, Asher has since learned to speak with greater precision and has now been assigned to the Recreation unit.
After Asher’s assignment, the ceremony returns to its normal routines. Although there is time for light-hearted reminiscences, as with Asher, the ceremony is indisputably important because at the end of it, all of the Twelves will be adults. They may be untrained, but they are adults nevertheless. This is why the Chief of the Elders thanks each Twelve for their childhood. In spite of the solemnity of the occasion, the Chief of the...
(The entire section is 451 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
It seems that the Chief Elder has decided not to assign Jonas a job within the community. Every other new Twelve has received his or her assignment, but the entire community feels uneasy at Jonas’s omission. The Chief Elder explains that a mistake has not been made. Nevertheless, she apologizes for the unease everyone has felt, and the community accepts her apology. She next apologizes to Jonas specifically, and he also accepts her apology. Jonas notices that these assurances assuage the concerns of the community.
The Chief Elder explains that Jonas has not been given an assignment. Instead, he has been selected to take on a great burden on behalf of the community. Jonas has been selected for training as the Receiver of Memory. The Receiver is the most important member of the Committee of Elders, and the decision to select a child for this difficult post cannot be made lightly. She explains that if even one member of the council “dreams” of doubt, then they will not select a potential candidate. This policy has become even more important considering that the previous selection ten years before turned out to be a failure. Jonas sees the current Receiver, who is somehow distinct from the other Elders, looking at him intensely.
The Committee of Elders has been watching Jonas for several years, and he has demonstrated that he has the essential qualities to become a Receiver of Memory: Jonas is intelligent, as is evidenced by his strong grades. He has integrity, and although he commits minor infractions like everyone else, he diligently recommends himself for chastisement after every infraction. Jonas has courage, which is especially important because the Receiver of Memory experiences pain in a way that no other member of the community can experience or even comprehend. Finally, although Jonas does not possess wisdom, the council is convinced that he has the potential to acquire wisdom through his training.
Finally, Jonas has the “Capacity to See Beyond.” Again, this is something that no member of the community but the Receiver can understand, though they can at least be aware of its existence. At first, Jonas denies this ability. However, as he looks out at the community in the Auditorium, he sees them change somehow. He again recalls the curious incident when he saw an apple mysteriously change while he was throwing it back and forth with Asher. It seems that he has this ability as well.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Jonas has been selected for training as a Receiver of Memory. It is the most important role in the entire community, but its unusual nature sets the Receiver apart. This “apartness” can be very isolating. Although Jonas has only just been told of his selection, he already notices that people respond to him differently. Even Lily is noticeably subdued around Jonas now. When Jonas asks Asher to ride home together, his old friend now seems to hesitate before speaking. Although Asher’s constant cheer can still be felt, it seems to come after a hesitation.
At home, Lily’s youthful excitement returns, and she is already planning what she will do now that she is allowed to volunteer around the community. She will start by working at the Nurturing center because she has already helped her father take care of Gabriel. Because no one is supposed to know Gabe’s name, she will have to be careful. Many children in the community share Lily’s exuberance.
In contrast, although the Ceremony of Twelve has ended, Jonas still feels apprehension about his future. Many Twelves have been given folders with instructions to read in preparation for their assignments. Jonas’s folder is very thin. Its documents outline eight rules. The first two are related to where Jonas may go during the day, and the Receiver in training notices that his new schedule will isolate him even further from his peers. His mother had warned him that his assignment would potentially force him to meet new friends.
However, no one had prepared him for the other instructions. He is now exempted from rudeness and can ask questions that draw attention to his peers’ uniqueness. He may not tell others about his training, nor may he share information about his dreams. Unless he is injured, he may not apply for medication. He may not “apply for release.” Jonas reflects that the Receiver’s role requires a great deal of courage to endure incomprehensible pain, and he recalls how a door once slammed shut on his hand. How much worse will the pain be that he feels as a Receiver?
Jonas’s mother reassures him that the Receiver has the most important role in the community because it is so unique. However, even this is little consolation for how isolated Jonas feels.
Jonas feels particular shock at his final instruction: he is allowed to lie. This will enable Jonas to follow the rules exempting him from sharing his dreams and...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Jonas’s training is to take place at an Annex attached to the House of the Old. He and Fiona arrive at the House of the Old together and comment on how different life seems now that they are Twelves. The nameplates on their bicycles have been changed overnight, and although Fiona has reported to the House of the Old many times, today feels different. They agree to ride home together if their training ends at the same time.
The Annex is a nondescript building, and Jonas announces his arrival into a speaker next to the door. Inside, he is greeted by a woman who explains that Jonas has nothing to be afraid of, though the Receiver does not like to be kept waiting. She unlocks the door so Jonas can proceed to meet the Receiver. Jonas is shocked that there is a lock on the door; he has never seen a lock before.
The inside of the Receiver’s room is very unusual. The walls are lined with books, and although Jonas has seen books before—like dictionaries and reference manuals that explain the purpose of the buildings in the community—he struggles to imagine how so many rules could exist that it would take this many books. Like every room in the community, there is a speaker through which instructions can be expressed. However, this one has an “off” switch.
The Receiver himself is interesting. He is very old but tired. When he greets Jonas, he calls him the Receiver. Although the rest of the community views Jonas as a Receiver in training, for the old man, Jonas is already the Receiver. The old man makes other things clear to his charge. To start, Jonas does not need to waste so much time apologizing anymore because they have too much to do. The Elder explains that he is tired from carrying the “weight” of memories and is eager to start their work.
At first, Jonas thinks he will only have to sit and listen to the old man share stories from his childhood. However, the Elder explains that he carries memories from the entire world and from generations. At first, it seemed exciting, like sledding down a hill, but overtime it has become more difficult. Jonas fails to comprehend the analogy. He has no understanding of sledding, snow, or even hills. The Elder decides to transmit to Jonas the memory of snow, and he has Jonas remove his tunic and lie face down on a bed to receive this memory.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
To receive memories, Jonas removes his shirt and lies facedown on a bed. The Elder puts his hands on Jonas’s back and begins to transmit the memory. This transmission includes concepts like snow, sledding, and hills. At first, Jonas can only sense coldness, but the memory takes on additional dimensions over time. Suddenly, Jonas is experiencing snow and the excitement of sledding down a hill. When his mind returns to the Annex room, he is quite enthusiastic about the experience. The process has not been so easy for the Elder, who wipes sweat from his brow as he reflects that he feels a little lighter without the memory. When these memories are transmitted, the Elder loses them forever, though he does have many memories of snow. The memory of snow and sledding is a very old memory, and the Elder explains to Jonas that it is quite difficult to transmit such ancient memories.
In Jonas’s community, there is no such thing as snow, nor are there hills. Jonas learns that such things were eliminated through climate control when people chose “Sameness.” Snow made travel difficult and interrupted agricultural cycles. Hills were also inconvenient. Jonas reflects that he would like to have hills and snow again, if only for brief periods of time, and the Elder agrees. However, much as they might wish for such things, the Receiver does not have the power to make them return. The Receiver’s position carries great honor but little power.
Jonas receives another memory, this time of sunshine. Unlike the previous transmission, this time Jonas has to identify the memory he has received. When he is able to identify sunshine, it is clear that Jonas has a talent for receiving memories from before “Sameness.” On the other hand, these memories are not nearly as painful as Jonas had expected. Although the Elder is clearly tired from the exertion of transmitting these memories, he agrees to transmit something that is more painful this time. Jonas experiences sunburn for the first time and suggests that it was not that painful. The Elder warns that there are more painful memories coming. He is reluctant to transmit too much pain too early because that is what led to disaster with the last Receiver ten years earlier.
However, they do not dwell on the past. The Elder proposes that they end the day’s training session. Jonas, who is quite young, is disappointed but understanding. In contrast, the Elder is clearly tired by the...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
It is the second day of Jonas’s training as the Receiver of Memory. He has been instructed not to share his dreams with others, but he is still uneasy with the idea that it is permissible for him to lie. It comes as a relief to Jonas that his mother does not ask whether he dreamt but rather whether he slept soundly the night before. It is no lie to admit that he did sleep soundly; it is only an omission to not say he dreamt. Meanwhile, Gabe is fitting in well with the family, though he has been sleeping rather fretfully in comparison to the others.
At school, classes continue as usual for Jonas and his peers. However, the Twelves are all now quite eager to share how their first day of training was with each other. Sadly, Jonas is not allowed to discuss his training with others. At the end of the day as he cycles to the House of the Old with Fiona, Jonas can tell that his friend is eager to hear about his training as the Receiver of Memory. However, Jonas is forced to change the subject; he asks how Fiona’s training is. She shares that although she has volunteered many hours at the House of the Old, she is learning a lot of new things, including that they use a discipline wand on the old, just like they do on the young.
As they part ways, Jonas notices that Fiona’s hair changes somehow. Jonas has come to recognize moments like these as having to do with the capacity to see beyond, but he is still very confused about what is happening. When he arrives at the Annex room, the Giver chastises Jonas for arriving one minute late. Jonas remembers not to apologize and explains that he was sidetracked by the change in Fiona’s hair. Instead of receiving memories, he asks what is going on.
The Giver recognizes that Jonas does not yet have the ability to understand what is happening, but he tries to explain. He starts by inviting Jonas to explore his memory of the sled and snow. When Jonas asks whether the Giver can just transmit the knowledge, the latter explains that the memory now belongs to Jonas. It is up to him to experience, similar to how all the others experience their individual memories. Of course, most people only have a single generation’s worth of memories, so what Jonas does is somewhat different. In his mind, Jonas tries to experience the memory, and he looks down.
Once again, he sees “beyond,” though he does not understand what he is seeing. The Giver invites Jonas to look at a...
(The entire section is 610 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Jonas has begun to see colors, though he just as often sees the Sameness. Still, the Giver assures him, he will eventually be able to see color permanently. Jonas balks at the idea that people are not allowed to see color because it is not fair. When the Giver asks Jonas to explain what is not fair, Jonas struggles to explain but eventually settles on the notion of choice. People should be allowed to choose what color shirt they wear in the morning. At home, Gabriel should be allowed to choose his comfort object. However, what if people were allowed to choose their mates—or, even more outrageously, their jobs? Choosing a shirt is harmless enough, but Jonas quickly realizes that there is a great danger in incorrect choices. People need to be protected.
However, in his personal life, Jonas has begun to feel greater temptation to share his learning with others, though he is forbidden from doing so. He invites Asher to examine flowers, but his long-time friend sees nothing other than the same flowers he always sees. After receiving a magnificent memory of a strange landscape and the roar of an elephant, Jonas attempts to explain to Lily that her comfort object, an elephant, actually existed once. He tries to transmit the memory to Lily, but she complains that he is hurting her and scoffs at his suggestion that elephants once existed.
One day, Jonas asks the Giver whether he ever had a spouse, which is a very rude question even by their standards. The Giver explains that he did once have a spouse and that she now lives with the Childless Adults who are not part of a family unit. The Giver explains that the rules that prohibit the Receiver of Memory from sharing his learning with others also apply to spouses. Although Jonas can apply for a spouse, it is a difficult thing to live with.
In fact, many aspects of the Giver’s life are difficult. One day, Jonas comes to see the Giver and is sent away because the Elder is wracked with pain. It seems like the Giver’s life—of memories and books that no one else is allowed to experience—is especially lonely. Furthermore, the Committee of Elders rarely calls on the Receiver for advice. Jonas wonders how important the Receiver really is. The Giver explains that the Receiver is especially important because the Receiver holds onto memories of pain so no one else has to experience them. Ten years ago, when the previous Receiver in training was lost, many memories suddenly...
(The entire section is 474 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Jonas has asked to experience a painful memory, and the Giver relents, reasoning that he cannot protect Jonas from them forever. They return to sledding, but this memory is slightly different. Once more, Jonas experiences being at the top of a hill with a sled, but this time there is less snow. The surface of the hill is slick and icy. As Jonas experiences sledding down a hill, he suddenly experiences a loss of control followed by a feeling of pain so agonizing that he vomits. Back in the Annex room, Jonas asks for medication, but the Giver denies it. The rules clearly state that Jonas cannot apply for relief from pain that comes as part of his training. That night, Jonas limps home as he endures the pain of the memory.
The transmission of painful memories becomes part of Jonas’s daily routine, though the Giver is always kind enough to end their sessions with a positive memory, such as the memory of a sailboat on a lake. That the Receiver alone should carry the burden of pain seems unfair to Jonas. Why must they carry it? The Giver explains that pain brings wisdom. Furthermore, the community long ago chose for this to happen. When he explains that this arrangement has been in place for generations, Jonas realizes this means that nothing will ever change.
The Receiver’s wisdom is important. The Giver explains that someone had once suggested that they allow Birthmothers to give birth to four children, rather than three, and allow some family units to care for three children, rather than two. This would allow more children to be born and the population to expand. However, because this was a new idea, the Committee of Elders asked the Giver to share his wisdom. Reaching back in his memory, the Giver advised the council against the change because it could lead to hunger, starvation, and warfare. The Committee did not want to know why they should deny change; it was enough that the Receiver of Memory advised against it.
At home, Jonas’s family unit is managing to care for three children. Gabriel seems to be progressing, though he still sleeps fretfully at night, which keeps Jonas’s mother from sleeping. Even now, it is possible that Gabriel will be released from the community, and Jonas wonders what would happen. The community is preparing to release another child—a twin—soon, which strikes Jonas as sad. Still, the more pressing problem is what to do with Gabriel, and Jonas volunteers to take care of him....
(The entire section is 489 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Sometimes when Jonas meets with the Giver for training, the Elder is suffering from the pain of the memories that he alone carries on behalf of his community. When Jonas enters the Giver’s room today, the Elder is clearly suffering. On days such as this, Jonas is sent home, but before he leaves today, he asks if there is any way he can help. The Giver, desperate for release, asks Jonas to take on some of the pain. Jonas helps the Giver to his chair, then removes his tunic and lies on the bed to receive another painful memory. It is a memory of war.
The air smells foul, and there is tremendous noise. Men are lying everywhere on a field, groaning with pain. A horse moves among them before it falls—and does not rise again. A young boy, near Jonas’s age, begs for water though he can barely speak. The boy’s hair is matted, and when he speaks, more blood courses from his wounds and stains his gray uniform. The colors—the red of the blood, the green of the grass, and the yellow of the boy’s hair—are vivid. Inside the experience of the memory, Jonas reaches for his water container and discovers that his arm is immobilized. When he looks closer, he can see the splintered bone of his arm. With his other arm, he slowly and painfully passes water to the boy. Jonas watches as he drinks the water, and he watches as life leaves the man’s eyes. He can do nothing. The memory continues for hours as Jonas lies in the field, overwhelmed with pain, as cannons are fired and people die.
It is the most painful memory Jonas has yet experienced. When Jonas cannot bear to experience the memory any longer, he opens his eyes and discovers that he is back in the Annex room with the Giver. The Giver looks away from Jonas before asking for forgiveness.
(The entire section is 330 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
After receiving the memory of warfare, Jonas is reluctant to return to receive memories from the Giver again. However, the decision is not his; Jonas has been selected. Warfare is awful, but the Giver is quick to point out that there are many good memories. Jonas recalls birthday parties, which celebrate individuality, and museums that celebrate beautiful artwork. Jonas asks about the Giver’s favorite memory. He is surprised when the Giver transmits his favorite memory to Jonas. It is a scene with people of all ages—children, parents, and an older couple as well—gathered around a tree, which is indoors and decorated with red and green lights. People are cooking nearby. Others are exchanging presents. When Jonas returns from the memory, he cannot name the holiday, but he recalls feelings of warmth, family, and happiness. There is also another feeling, which the Giver helps Jonas to identify as love.
Jonas inquires about the elderly couple, and the Giver explains that they are grandparents. A long time ago—“back and back and back”—parents did not become “childless adults” after their children grew up. They remained a part of the family. Jonas is quick to point out that there are disadvantages to this organization. It puts the elderly at risk of not being cared for. Additionally, the family in the memory had a fireplace and candles, which is clearly dangerous. On the other hand, Jonas admits that the candles and fireplace did feel “warm.”
When Jonas returns home, he asks his parents whether they love him, and they laugh at this question. Jonas’s father is surprised to hear such imprecise language from a member of his family. Jonas’s mother explains that love has become a generalized word that is now so meaningless it is nearly obsolete. Instead, Jonas could ask whether his parents enjoy his company or whether they are proud of his accomplishments. When Jonas’s parents ask whether he understands, Jonas lies for the first time as he thanks them for helping him.
The chapter closes with Jonas once again taking care of Gabriel. The child has slept soundly in Jonas’s care for four nights in a row and the Nurturers are very pleased with Gabriel’s progress. However, when Gabriel starts sleeping on his own, he again has fretful nights. That night, Jonas tells the baby that the world could be different. For example, there could be love. The next morning, Jonas does not take the pill...
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
A surprise holiday is announced at the start of the seventeenth chapter, and Jonas is thrilled. He no longer finds school as meaningful as it once was for him. However, a surprise holiday is great news for everyone, not just Jonas. His parents have the day off as well. As always, the community has planned carefully, and substitute workers take care of Nurturing and Food Production. They will be given a holiday on another day.
Riding his bicycle, Jonas sets off to find his friends, Asher and Fiona. He reflects that since he stopped taking the pill that prevents the Stirrings, pleasurable but embarrassing dreams have returned. Moreover, Jonas notices that the way he feels emotions has changed. Language in the community is supposed to be precise so as to prevent misunderstandings, and after careful thought, Jonas decides that he feels things more “deeply.” He recalls Lily’s complaints about a visitor from a nearby community cutting in line. She did not feel angry but rather felt a sort of shallow impatience and exasperation. Now Jonas is aware of what anger is and what it can feel like.
When he finds his friends, they are playing a game. There are two groups of children that they attack and counter attack each other with imaginary weapons. After they are hit with the weapons, they mime exaggerated postures of dying, giggling all the while. Jonas, who is now aware of war, finds the game repulsive and begins to break down. His emotional outburst disturbs the other children, who simply decide to leave and play elsewhere. Only Asher and Fiona remain, and Asher is irritated with Jonas for breaking up the game. When Jonas asks his friend to stop playing the game, Asher is indignant, pointing out that he has been assigned to recreation. He then apologizes for not showing Jonas, the Receiver, proper respect. When Jonas continues trying to persuade Asher, his friend replies, “I said I apologize, Jonas.” Jonas is forced to accept the apology automatically, and he realizes that he has the power to change nothing. He looks at Fiona and reflects that she is lovely, but she will never be able to return his love.
Back home, Gabriel is starting to walk and can even say the first syllable of his name. Jonas’s father now brings home a discipline wand when he returns from Nurturing to help Gabriel learn how to behave. Fortunately, the infant is easygoing. Jonas’s father will have to release one of a set of...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
After hearing Lily speculate about release and Elsewhere, Jonas asks the Giver about the same topic—though the questions are not so idle coming from the young Receiver in Training. When Jonas asks the Giver whether he ever thinks about applying for release, the Giver explains that he is not allowed to do so until he has trained a successor. Jonas shares that he is not allowed to apply for release, but the Giver already knows this. He explains that the rule was put in place after the disaster ten years before.
Jonas inquires about the previous Receiver in Training with whom the Giver worked. The Giver is reluctant to share. He explains that the memories are painful because he loved the previous Receiver in Training, just as he loves Jonas now. However, he tells Jonas that the previous Receiver in Training was a female and that her name was Rosemary. In many ways, Rosemary was similar to Jonas. She arrived in the Annex room in the same way, full of anticipation and anxiety at her new role in the community. She enjoyed the early memories and was diligent in her responsibilities.
Eventually, she began to ask after the painful memories out of a sense of duty. The Giver was careful not to share memories of war. Instead, he shared experiences of loneliness with Rosemary. After she experienced these painful memories, Rosemary changed. She was no longer as happy as she had been before. Although the Giver always tried to end their training with happy memories, Rosemary had changed. One day, she hugged the Giver goodbye, went to Chief Elder, and applied for release.
The Giver again explains to Jonas that her release was a disaster for the community. Even though Rosemary had only been trained for five weeks and most of the memories she had received were positive, the community was unable to deal with the memories of loneliness she left.
Suddenly, Jonas begins to reflect on the idea of release and loss. He recalls Caleb, the Four who was lost to the river. He asks what would happen if he were to go too close to the river and be lost. The Giver is greatly disturbed by the idea and suggests that Jonas be very careful where he walks. Losing him at this point would be a terrible blow to the community. Although the Giver reflects that he might be able to do something to help this time, he ends the discussion by saying it is a good thing Jonas is a good swimmer.
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Jonas apologizes to the Giver for having wasted so much of their time on questions about release. Jonas explains that part of the reason he is curious about release is that his father is going to release a twin today. Actually, Jonas reflects, it probably happened this morning. Although Jonas is curious about release, he has a pretty good idea of what happens. His father will weigh the twins and release the lighter of the two. The child will be cleaned and comforted and released to Elsewhere. What happens then is the subject of Lily’s imaginings.
Jonas is surprised when the Giver says he wishes the community would not release twins. Jonas is quick to defend his community, suggesting that it would be very confusing to have two people who look exactly alike. However, the Giver does not back down. Instead, he suggests that Jonas attempt to watch a release. Jonas at first suggests that he cannot, but the Giver explains that the Receiver of Memory is allowed to ask questions and see things like a release. Jonas again suggests that he cannot watch the release because it already happened that morning, but the Giver explains that all releases are videotaped. He turns on the speaker in the Annex room and requests a tape of the release of the twin. The Giver’s assistant procures the tape and, together, Jonas and the Giver watch the release on a screen above the speaker.
The release mostly begins as expected. Jonas’s father and another Nurturer enter a small, plain room (Jonas was expecting an auditorium) with two infants. Jonas’s father weighs the two children and, much to his relief, finds that the two are indeed of different weight. The first child, who weighs six pounds, is sent back to the community. The second child weighs five pounds and ten ounces. Jonas’s father declares that the smaller child is a “shrimp.” Jonas recognizes in his father’s voice the special tone he uses when caring for Gabriel.
Next, the child is cleaned, but he is not comforted or prepared to enter another community. Jonas’s father takes out a syringe. He fills the syringe and injects its contents into a vein in the infant’s forehead. Jonas watches with horror as he realizes that the contents of the syringe are not medicine. His father has killed the infant, who is wrapped up and disposed of in the same way garbage is disposed of. The Giver explains that when Rosemary asked for release, she injected herself. He admits that he...
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Jonas has watched his father release an infant, and now he knows that release means kill. His father’s job is to kill children and Fiona’s job is to kill the elderly. Something in Jonas is torn by this experience, and he cries and lashes out against the Giver, declaring that he will never go back to his family. The Giver agrees to let Jonas stay in the Annex room with him. He has his assistant notify Jonas’s family unit. She readily agrees to help out, and Jonas sarcastically mocks her compliance.
Eventually, the Giver manages to help Jonas to calm down, reminding the young Receiver that no one in the community is capable of feeling anything about what they do. Together, they work out a plan for Jonas to escape from the community. It has been nearly a year since the Ceremony of Twelve when Jonas was selected to become Receiver in Training. The Receiver does not usually attend the ceremony, and this year, the two will take advantage of this. Jonas will leave a note on the morning of the ceremony explaining to his family that he is going out for a morning bicycle ride along the river. Meanwhile, the Giver will request a vehicle and driver for the purpose of visiting a nearby community. This is also not unusual. In reality, Jonas will use this time to escape to Elsewhere.
Jonas tries to convince the Giver to come with him, but the Elder explains that his role is to stay and help the community deal with the memories that Jonas’s escape will release to them. However, the Giver feels that Jonas’s role should be to escape because the memories he will release will help the community become more “complete.” The Giver does not want to escape to Elsewhere. He wants to be with his daughter, Rosemary.
For a long time, the Giver did not think they could do anything to bring change to the community but now he sees a way. When Jonas escapes, the Giver will return to the ceremony and announce that Jonas has been lost to the river. The community will chant Jonas’s name, loudly at first and in descending levels of volume until he is merely a whisper. But they will feel the pain of Jonas’s memories, and they will be confused. They will need to turn to the Giver for his wisdom to deal with these new experiences.
In the meantime, when Jonas returns home, he lies to his family about how he feels. Furthermore, he now knows that his father is lying to him in return when he discusses his...
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
In spite of all the careful plans he made with the Giver to take advantage of the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas ends up leaving early. The Giver would likely have been able to offer Jonas a great deal of help, but the young Receiver is forced to make do without it.
While Jonas was staying with the Giver, Jonas’s father allowed Gabriel to return to the care center. The infant fussed and squabbled all night, greatly irritating the Nurturers. The next day, even Jonas’s father was forced to agree that the time had come for Gabe’s release, and plans have been made to release the child the next day. Jonas’s father sighs and admits that the community has done everything in its power for Gabe. Jonas’s mother, whose sleep has been disrupted for so long, readily agrees that it is time for Gabe to be released.
Jonas decides to escape ahead of schedule and to take Gabe with him. He takes his father’s bicycle, which will allow him to carry Gabriel. He also takes some supplies to feed the infant. He dodges workmen and patrols before crossing the bridge that takes people away from the community. Soon he notices that the outer dwellings of the community are becoming less common. He knows that planes will begin searching for him and Gabriel soon. Jonas has robbed the community to make his escape.
To avoid patrols, Jonas travels at night and rests during the day. His legs are soon numb from exertion, but he finds that he is getting stronger and does not need to break so often. He and Gabriel scrounge for water and food in the fields that surround the community. But their escape is not over; they have not arrived anywhere.
Planes are sent out to find Jonas and Gabriel. These are not the same planes Jonas saw at the beginning of the novel. These ones fly low and are designed for searching. In fact, the planes fly so low that Jonas can nearly make out the faces of the pilots. However, he knows that the pilots are colorblind, which will work to his advantage. On the other hand, he knows that the planes have been equipped with heat-tracking equipment. To combat this, Jonas transmits memories of snow to Gabriel, though he is careful to keep some for himself. He begins to notice that the memories he carries are less powerful. Fortunately, the planes are becoming less common.
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
The first memory Jonas received showed him what sledding was and what hills are. In the community, there are no hills because they chose to go to Sameness. Later he learned about rain, another thing that was left behind because of the desire for Sameness. Now Jonas has moved beyond the community’s climate control and uniform landscaping, and he discovers the reality of the problems that hills pose. For one thing, riding the bicycle has become much more difficult and dangerous. The ground is no longer smooth, and Jonas soon falls off his bicycle. As a child, he scraped his knees, but now he injures his ankle and only finds relief by putting it into a nearby pond.
There are other challenges now that Jonas has entered a world that is not driven by Sameness. The rain, which seemed so nice to experience in the memories passed on by the Giver, now makes Jonas and Gabriel wet and uncomfortable, and it takes them both a long time to dry off. Jonas was once chastised for complaining that he was “starving” because he was only “hungry.” No one in the community ever starves. However, Jonas is no longer in the community, and now he is experiencing starvation. So is Gabriel. Jonas does his best to experience and transmit memories of eating cakes and other foods, but he has traveled so far from the community that the memories are now very difficult to experience.
When Jonas first learned about how the community worked, he was irritated that its organization denied its members choice. Now, Jonas wonders whether he made the wrong choice in escaping. He and Gabriel are clearly starving. However, Jonas reflects, if he had stayed, he would be starving for love, color, and feeling. If he had stayed, Gabriel would already have been killed, so perhaps there was no choice at all.
Fortunately, there is still a sense of balance. One day, Gabriel announces that there are planes nearby. Before Jonas can panic and hide, he sees that Gabriel is pointing at birds. Jonas has never seen an actual bird before, but what remains of the received memories helps him identify these new creatures. He also sees deer and flowers and other aspects of nature that have been, until now, denied him. There are even some red furry creatures with thick tails that Jonas cannot identify. There is beauty in the world. But the most pressing concern is finding food for Gabriel, who now screams from starvation.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Jonas and Gabriel are starving, and now things are getting worse. A swirling snowstorm has started. Although Jonas tells Gabriel that snow is beautiful, it is of little help to the two fugitives. Still, Jonas feels that Elsewhere is nearby. None of his senses confirm it and there are no sounds ahead, but Jonas feels certain that he is close to his destination. Up to this point, Elsewhere has been a place of mystery. For all Jonas knows, it may well be, as Lily speculates, a world of twins. Regardless of what it is, Jonas is desperate to reach a world of light and warmth. He and Gabe will die of starvation and exposure soon.
The snow is mounting, and ahead of them, Jonas sees a hill. Jonas’s feet and legs are numb and exhausted from the exertion of their travels. Jonas continues to push on the pedals, but the bicycle eventually stalls and then falls over. With great difficulty, Jonas forces himself up and begins to climb.
He has now traveled so far from the community that he can feel the memories leaving. Soon the Giver’s wisdom will be required to help guide the community through the troubling new memories and experiences he is leaving. However, Jonas still struggles to transmit memories of sunshine to Gabriel, whose hair is matted and whose skin is dirty and streaked by tears. With the power of these memories in his mind, Jonas continues up the hill as he and the infant hug each other for warmth.
Jonas relies on his memories to help him continue, but it seems that they have all gone. Suddenly he thinks of the Giver, Asher, and Fiona, and Jonas finds that these thoughts give him a burst of energy that allows him to reach the top of the hill. Once there, Jonas suddenly recognizes his surroundings. He looks down and sees a sled, and he knows that this time there will be no ice and pain waiting for him at the end of the ride. He is surrounded by fresh snow. Jonas finds the rope and carefully rides down the hill. When he gets to the bottom of the hill, he looks up and sees a village. There are lights and buildings. There is warmth. There is joy and singing and music. As the novel closes, Jonas thinks he hears music coming across the distance he has traveled, from the community that he left, “but perhaps it was only an echo.”
(The entire section is 416 words.)