In The Giver, when do you realize what release means?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reader realizes what release means when Jonas’s father releases the newborn twin. 

Release is actually mentioned early on in the book, but we have no idea what it really means at first.  We are told that it is very serious, but not what is actually happening when someone is released.  We are also told the occasions for release. 

For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure. (Ch. 1) 

Release of the elderly is commonplace.  Release of people who break three rules or commit major infractions is less common, but does clearly happen.  When the jet pilot accidentally flies over the community, he is released for his error.  Jonas lets us know that this is a serious thing.  Jonas himself does not really seem to know what is happening. 

Jonas learns about release of the elderly, but he does not get many details.  He hears about a man named Roberto’s Ceremony of Release.  They told his life story and then he just walked off.  Jonas has no idea where he goes, and the old person who tells him about it, Larissa, does not know either.  She just knows that the Old never return. 

The third occasion when someone is released is the release of a newchild.  A newchild is a baby who is less than a year old.  All births in the community are planned.  There are no actual parents.  Children are created and born to birthmothers.  If a newchild does not meet the required growth parameters, he or she is released at the end of a year.  All other children are given to families at the Ceremony of One. 

We learn about the release of newchildren through Jonas’s father.  He is a nurturer, which means he cares for the newchildren.  He has a newchild that he does not want to release named Gabriel.  He gets special permission to take Gabe home at night, and then to give him an extra year of nurturing.  This is very rare, but it is allowed. 

One day, Jonas’s father tells him that newborn twins are about to be born.  If they are identical, one will be released.  Jonas’s father is not happy about this, but no one takes it too seriously.  Jonas thinks that release means that the newborn twin who is released will go off somewhere, to Elsewhere.  He has no idea it means the baby will be killed. 

Jonas asks The Giver about release, and his mentor tells him that he has the right to view any ceremony.  Jonas is surprised to learn that the release was filmed.  The Giver shows it to him.  He is shocked when he sees his father give a tiny newborn a lethal injection through his forehead. 

He killed it! My father killed it! Jonas said to himself, stunned at what he was realizing. He continued to stare at the screen numbly. (Ch. 19) 

His father then puts the baby in a box and dumps it into a garbage chute.  Jonas is stunned.  He heard that his predecessor, Rosmarie, asked to be released.  The Giver tells him she injected herself.  She committed suicide.  Jonas cannot believe that his perfect community regularly and callously commits murder.

Read the study guide:
The Giver

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