In The Giver, we learn that Jonas is an eleven and Lily is a seven. What do these numbers mean?

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In Jonas's highly structured, organized society, which is founded on the concept of Sameness, the annual birthrate is determined by the Committee of Elders and strictly regulated. Each year, only fifty newchildren are born and added to the society's population. The entire group of fifty children added to the community in the same year are identified as the same age group. In Jonas's community, age is only calculated up to twelve, which is the year adolescents enter adulthood and are given their assignments. Lily being a Seven and Jonas being a Twelve simply identifies their age and indicates what stage of development they are in according to the community. Each year, annual ceremonies are held, which celebrate each age group maturing. As the children get older, the community gives them more independence and gradually prepares them for adulthood. At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is given the unique assignment of being the community's next Receiver of Memory.

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These numbers correspond to their ages. The numbers also represent what stage of development they are in according to the community.

Lily is only a seven, so at her Ceremony of Sevens she received a front buttoned jacket, indicating she was now old enough to button up her coat on her own. At her next ceremony, the Ceremony of Eights, she will receive a coat with pockets, which indicates she will be old enough to carry her own small things. It indicates burgeoning responsibility.

Jonas is almost done with being a child, as he is eleven, and adulthood in the community begins at twelve. At his Ceremony of Elevens he received some new clothes and a calculator. At the Ceremony of Twelves, though, he will receive his job assignment as the Receiver of Memories.

Note that even their birthdays are celebrated as community events—everyone has the same birthday—and each person is a number; rather than saying "I am seven," one would say, "I am a seven," indicating they are part of a larger group and not an individual.

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