In The Giver, the nature of release is something of a mystery for much of the story. It is clearly something that is central to the community in the book, but we are never quite sure exactly what it is.
When we first hear about release, it is presented as a terrible punishment. Right at the beginning of the book (I have this on Kindle and cannot give page numbers), a trainee pilot makes a mistake and we are told he will be released. The narrator says that being released
was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure.
As the story goes on, we see that release is not always seen in this way. Instead, we find that old people and newborns are sometimes released. There is no disgrace in this. For the old, release is accompanied by a ceremony and is seen as a joyful occasion. At the very end of Chapter 4, we are told about an old man named Roberto being released. Larissa, an old woman, does not know what happened to him when he was released, but he
bowed to all of us and then walked, like they all do, through the special door in the Releasing Room.
She continues, saying that he had a look of “pure joy” on his face as he went.
Later, about midway through Chapter 6, we get some new information. We are told that
Those who were released — even as newchildren — were sent Elsewhere and never returned to the community.
Finally, a little way into Chapter 19, we find out what release really is. Jonas’s father has to release a newchild. Jonas is able to watch because he is with the Giver. He sees that what really happens is that his father kills the baby with an injection. At that point, we find out that a person who is released is actually killed.