In the book, The Giver, what does The Giver mean when he says they know nothing?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What The Giver means when he says this (in Lois Lowry’s The Giver) is that the people of the community do not know what it really means to be human.  They do not have the feelings and experiences that are associated with true humanity.  They are more like robots who know many facts, but who do not know what it really means to be alive.

There are two times in this book when The Giver tells Jonas that “they know nothing.”  The first time is in Chapter 13 (I have this book on Kindle and therefore do not have page numbers).  At that point, Jonas has started to explain what his instructors have told him about the human brain.  The Giver cuts him off and tells him that “they know nothing.”  He goes on to explain that the instructors and others know many facts, but "it's just that . . . without the memories it's all meaningless.”

What The Giver is saying is that the average person in the community lives a meaningless existence.  All of the members of the community other than The Giver do not know anything about love or about any other emotion.  They do not know what it is like to be truly human.  Without the kinds of memories that The Giver has (and that he shares with Jonas), the people in the community are just existing rather than truly living.  This is why “they know nothing” about being human beings.