How is the jacket that the fours, fives and sixes wore in The Giver different from the jacket the sevens wore and what do they symbolize?
The society in which Jonas lives in takes great pains to not offend each other. That's why everybody is incredibly cordial to one another and quick to apologize for the littlest of offenses. Along the lines of being cordial to one another, the society teaches children from an early age that it's equally important to help fellow members of the community. It's not enough to be nice to people; you have to help each other out for the common good. The society calls it interdependence. As a way to teach dependence on other people, young children are given jackets that button in the back. That way, whenever a person puts on a jacket, he/she needs somebody else's help to button it up. When a child turns seven, he/she is given a jacket that buttons in the front. The jacket is a sign of personal independence. The thought is that the person has learned the concept of interdependence and will continue to do it even with their new front button jacket.
The little girl nodded and looked down at herself, at the
jacket with its row of large buttons that designated her as a
Seven. Fours, Fives, and Sixes all wore jackets that
fastened down the back so that they would have to help each
other dress and would learn interdependence.
The community used every opportunity to train residents in the ways of doing and thinking about their lives that would support the lifestyle which had been adopted. Even the clothing provided for residents taught important concepts.
Children who were four through six years of age wore jackets that opened in the back. These young children were unable to completely put the jackets on by themselves because of the back closing, "so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence."
Seven year olds received a different style of jacket, one that closed with buttons down the front opening. The different styling of the jackets served as "the first sign of independence." At seven years of age, each child was finally given clothing that allowed him or her to completely dress independently as "the first very visible symbol of growing up."