I think that the ending of The Giver is simply brilliant. The author gets us hooked on this story and attached to the characters, and then gives us an ambiguous ending! I think that the ending allows us to make our own story for Jonas and Gabe. I would hate to think that they died, although much of the evidence seems to point that way. Yet even if they died, the book raises the question of an afterlife. Many people in our world believe in Heaven, so they believe in an afterlife. It would be sad if Elsewhere was not a real place, but really an afterlife, but it would also be kind of uplifting too. It would mean that all of the people who died on the altar of sameness did not cease to exist, but really did go to a better place.
Elsewhere is not really described in detail in the book, but there are many hints that it is a positive place. After all, the memories stored in Jonas and The Giver came from somewhere, and are being kept alive somehow. From the ending, it seems that Elsewhere is a happy and positive place, whether or not it is a real place or an afterlife.
This is a question that has been discussed on this board before. You may want to read previous discussions like this one:
The ending is debatable, and really depends on how you read into it. I like to think that Jonas and Gabe reached Elsewhere, a place that is more like the world we know, with colors and music and emotions. However, the other way of reading the ending is to see it as Jonas' hallucinations as Jonas and Gabe die, or the last memories from the Giver that Jonas has, leaving as he passes away. According to Lois Lowry though, she once said that when she wrote it she thought that they made it to a happy place, and that it was an optimistic ending, where Jonas and Gabe completed their journey. Here's a link to her take on the discussion:
I have to agree with bullgatortail - I think the ending is left deliberately ambiguous so we as a reader have to try and piece together what happens from our knowledge of the rest of the novel and its tone. How we respond to the novel overall will greatly determine our "take" on the ending - happy or sad. I guess if we feel that the overwhelming tone of the novel is pessimistic, then we will tend towards a sad ending, whereas if we feel that there is a note of optimism, and that Jonas' act of rebellion is likely to succeed, then we will believe they do reach Elsewhere.
The first time I read the novel, I assumed that Jonas and Gabe had succeeded in finding a new life in Elsewhere, and that they would survive the cold. However, the ending is deliberately left for the reader to decide for themselves. I actually prefer the unknown factor.
This depends on which day it is -- what I happen to be thinking.
There are two possibilities.
First, he and Gabe might have made it to Elsewhere. The two of them might have gone down the hill and found that there really was a whole village of people just waiting to take them in and give them a new home.
But, on the other hand, it could be that Jonas is just hallucinating. In this scenario, he is dying of cold and just dredges up this idea out of his memory. It is just an illusion and they are soon to be dead.
There are two possibilities in the giver at the end of the book. First one is they may both survive by helping of Jonas's memories. Or the other possibility is they both die and it may happen like this. Firstly Jonas dies because of weather and hunger then Gabe dies because of not living without someone.