How does The Giver by Lois Lowry explore the idea that characters transition from childhood to adulthood as a result of their experiences, choices, and conflicts? 

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lois Lowry's The Giver can be considered a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age story. Jonas's journey from childhood to adulthood is chronicled in detail, but for him and his friends as part of the community, it is shown each year during the two days of celebrations that are held. Each year in a child's life represents a new success as well as a new opportunity. The community celebrates each year by adding more responsibility, independence, and freedom to a child's life. For example, Jonas's sister Lily will turn eight years-old at the next celebration. At that time, her comfort object will be recycled (as stated in Chapter Two) and she will start her service hours (as stated in Chapter Three). In Chapter Six, Jonas reminds Lily about turning seven and when she received her first front-buttoned jacket. "Fours, Fives, and Sixes all wore jackets that fastened down the back so they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence" (40).

In Chapter Two, Father remembers when his sister Katya turned nine and was allowed not to wear hair ribbons anymore and she received her bicycle. In Chapter Six, it is revealed that the bicycle for a Nine is a "powerful emblem of moving gradually out into the community, away from the protective family unit" (41). All of these transitions show a yearly development from one stage a childhood to the next--eventually ending at twelve when they receive their adult assignments. Throughout their teenage lives, they will train in these assignments until they graduate and assume their official adult roles.

The biggest celebration, however, is for year twelve, which Jonas is coming up on. This is the year that children step from the world of childhood into adulthood because they are given their life-long assignments. These assignments are based on how they respond to obeying the rules, make choices during service hours, and study at school from ages 8-12. Jonas's father tells him a story in Chapter Six about a boy named Benjamin who spent most of those four service years at the Rehabilitation Center. Because he knew the service inside and out, and because he helped to develop some machines that improved the quality of service, he was predictably assigned to the Rehabilitation Center at age twelve. He later became the director of the center.

Jonas is worried about his friend, Asher, as well as himself in Chapter Two. He says that Asher is full of fun, but he's not serious about anything. His mother explains that the elders know Asher and have been watching him and all of the children their whole lives. They will choose something for each child that best fits their personalities, education, and work ethics. Another friend that Jonas thinks about is Fiona, who has spent a lot of time with the elderly at the House of the Old. She is given the assignment to work there, and Asher is assigned to the Recreation Department. The elders therefore show that they do take into account the children's experiences, choices, and conflicts when selecting assignments for all children in the community.

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The Giver

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