How does Jonas help Gabriel to sleep soundly in The Giver? How is this fact important in the story as a whole?

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Jonas helps Gabriel to sleep soundly by giving him memories, which means that Gabe is also a potential receiver.  Eventually this causes Jonas to have to flee with Gabe when the baby is threatened.

Jonas and Gabriel have a deep connection.  Jonas notices this when his father first brings home this newchild, a baby who gets special permission for extra nurturing by Jonas’s father.

It was the first thing Jonas noticed as he looked at the newchild peering up curiously from the basket. The pale eyes. (Ch. 3)

Lily points out that Jonas and the newchild have similar eyes, and Jonas feels embarrassed.  His eyes make him stand out in the community, because he has “light” eyes, and this is different from the other community members, in a place where Sameness reigns supreme.  Comments are made that perhaps the two have the same Birthmother.

It is significant that the two have similar eyes, because it is the mark of a genetic trait.  In fact, there are very few in the community with this color eyes (The Giver and one other girl have the same eyes, and the same genetic predispositions).  Jonas and Gabe are related, and they share something other than eye color.  They share “depth.”  Jonas notices that the baby seems wise.  This is something unusual in a baby!

The evening proceeded as all evenings did in the family unit, in the dwelling, in the community: quiet, reflective, a time for renewal and preparation for the day to come. It was different only in the addition to it of the newchild with his pale, solemn, knowing eyes. (Ch. 3)

It is the fact that Jonas and Gabriel seem to have this connection that makes Jonas feel instinctively that Gabe may have the Capacity to See Beyond, as he has.  When he first transmits a memory to Gabe, it is by accident.  The baby is in his room because he does not sleep well at night, and Jonas is absentmindedly rubbing his back to soothe him.  When doing so, he transmits a memory.

He was not aware of giving the memory; but suddenly he realized that it was becoming dimmer, that it was sliding through his hand into the being of the newchild. (Ch. 14)

In this moment, Jonas goes from being a Receiver to being a Giver himself, and Gabriel becomes a Receiver.  The child not only proves that he has the Capacity to See Beyond, but cements his bond to Jonas irreparably.  It is because of this bond that Jonas risks his life when he learns that Gabe is scheduled to be released. 

Jonas had planned to leave the community in a much more orderly and safe way.  Yet when Gabe’s fate was sealed, so was Jonas’s.  Jonas was not about to let Gabe die.  Because Jonas knew what release meant, he had to save Gabe.  So he took Gabe and ran in the middle of the night, even though he knew that if he was found, he would be “condemned” (Ch. 21) along with the baby.

Jonas's relationship with Gabe is not one the community understands.  They do not appreciate love, or attachment.  They have no strong emotions, or real emotions, of any kind.  No one there would understand what Jonas did.  That is the reason Jonas had to leave, and return the memories to the community.  He had to teach his people how to feel again.  Once he learned the power of love, and emotions, he realized what he was missing.