In The Giver what is Jonas most afraid of?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As he flees from his society and encounters a number of obstacles to their freedom, Jonas is most afraid that he and Gabriel will starve and he will be unable to save Gabriel and even himself.

At the end of Chapter 22, Jonas and Gabriel have traveled for days without food. Jonas's ankle has been sprained, and it is difficult for him to pedal the bicycle. Added to all this, they are exposed to cold and now a chilling rain. Having failed at catching a fish or obtained any food, Jonas is "tortured by hunger," and Gabriel, who has not cried at all during the long, difficult journey, cries now from hunger. Jonas, too, cries; however, he cries not for himself, but for Gabriel that he will not be able to save the child. "He no longer cared for himself."

As he ponders their dilemma of deprivation of food and shelter, Jonas does experience something positive: He feels more love than he has ever experienced in his life. For, in eliminating many of the negatives of life such as hunger and physical pain, the society in which Jonas has lived has also mitigated real emotion, having declared that such words as love are "imprecise." Further, Jonas recalls how glibly his father, who has cared for Gabriel privately at home, tells his son that he has voted for Gabriel's release because the baby is unable to sleep peacefully at night without the comfort of another person. Truly, in his misery of hunger and cold, Jonas acquires an understanding that the positive and wonderful emotions of joy and love can only come after one has felt negative emotions, such as pain and sorrow.