In Chapter Nineteen of Lois Lowry’s book The Giver, The Giver shows Jonas a video of Jonas’s father releasing a newchild. Jonas’ father has a job called a nurturer, a person who cares for newchildren at the Nurturing Center until the babies are given to families. To readers today, the word nurturer has a positive connotation. It brings to mind a caring, compassionate person that helps, rather than hurts, others.
Initially, Jonas is excited to get to see this because he does not know what release really means. He smiles when he hears his father speak to the child in the same voice he uses with baby Gabriel. But what Jonas then sees on the screen is his father killing the child by lethal injection and disposing of the body in a garbage chute. This shocks Jonas and his perception of his family and of his whole community is shattered. Lowry writes that:
“Jonas felt a ripping sensation inside himself, the feeling of terrible pain clawing its way forward to emerge in a cry.”
This scene is an example of dramatic irony, which is when the reader is aware of something going on in the text, but one or more characters are not. Because Jonas has received memories of real pain and love from The Giver he understands the ethical implications of what his father has done. He is shocked because he never knew that release meant death and he certainly did not think his father, who is passionate about caring for newchildren and trusted with caring for them, would participate in such an activity. Many readers are also shocked by this because of how different the father’s job description and cheery nature are from what he actually does. And yet Jonas’ father does not have the complex understanding of what he is actually doing that the reader, the Giver, and Jonas have. Jonas’ father has never felt real feelings or human connection and thus cannot understand the implications of an action like this one. Thus the dramatic irony here brings attention to the deep flaws of this community and how in getting rid of authentic emotion they have rid themselves of standard human ethics.