What happens at the Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony in The Giver?  

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 6, Jonas and his family attend the first ceremony of the day, where newborn babies are named and given to their new families. During the Naming Ceremony, a family is given a replacement child named Caleb and the audience initially gives them a loud applause. The couple's first child was also named Caleb, who unfortunately drowned in the river when he accidentally wandered off and fell in the water without anyone noticing. Jonas remembers that the entire community participated in the Ceremony of Loss following Caleb's death. During the Ceremony of Loss, each citizen softly murmured Caleb's name throughout the day until the day ended and they stopped murmuring Caleb's name.

During the Naming of the couple's new child, the community performs the brief Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony by murmuring Caleb's name over and over again with increasing volume each time until the community is practically shouting his name. The Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony corresponds with the Ceremony of Loss and is an example of how the community grieves and celebrates life and death in the highly structured society.

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litgeek2015 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We learn about this ceremony in Ch. 6. The Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony is performed when someone has died and a new child is given to a family and that new child has the same name as the person who died - hence, there is a "replacement.

In the ceremony, which happens once a year with the others, the entire crowd slowly and quietly begins to murmur the new child's name. Then, they get progressively louder and quicker as they say the name. It seems that this somehow imprints the name on the child, while it also reminds the community that this name is incorporated into the community again. It breathes life back into the name, so to speak.

Because this ceremony is only performed once in the book, it is unclear if this ceremony is done for every person who dies and whose name is used again, or if it is only done when a family loses a child and then receive another child with the same name. This second scenario is what we see in Ch. 6 with the "replacement Caleb."

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