How would you describe Jonas's father in The Giver? (Physical description, inner desires, important traits?)

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonas's father plays his role in the community appropriately, but readers may see him as a villain and a killer.

Jonas’s father seems gentle and supportive, if not bland.  He is one of two appointed “parents.”  Parents in Jonas’s community are not biological.  It is more of a custodial arrangement, like foster parents, teachers, or babysitters.  They do not love their children, because love does not exist in their community.  He does, however, feel a sort of affection for Jonas. He cares about him.

Jonas’s father works with Newchildren, or babies.  He is a Nurturer.  As a Nurturer, he is good with children, and even brings home an extra one, Gabriel.  The fact that he brings Gabriel home as a special circumstance shows that he does have an extra amount of sentiment about him.  Most people in the community would not think twice about Gabriel, but Jonas’s father apparently did.

"He's a sweet little male with a lovely disposition. But he isn't growing as fast as he should, and he doesn't sleep soundly. We have him in the extra care section for supplementary nurturing, but the committee's beginning to talk about releasing him." (Ch. 1)

Jonas’s father is concerned that Gabriel will be released, which is why he brings him home.  Yet after a year of bringing him home, he hardly seems more than a little upset when Gabriel is actually scheduled for release.  Perhaps more disturbing for the reader is when Jonas watches his father actually perform the release of the newborn twin.  Jonas’s father’s behavior seems to demonstrate a disregard for human life.

Jonas stared at the screen, waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. The little twin lay motionless. His father was putting things away. Folding the blanket. Closing the cupboard. (Ch. 20)

Jonas’s father dumps the body down a garbage shoot and that is that.

It is easy to paint Jonas’s father as either evil or stupid because of his attitude toward release, but it is more complicated than that.  Release is part of life in Jonas’s community.  It is considered normal for infants.  Jonas is shocked because his father killed an innocent newborn, and the reader no doubt feels the same.  Yet Jonas’s father does not feel the sense that what he did was wrong.  Jonas has formed an attachment with Gabriel, so when he learns that the same thing is about to happen to Gabe, he is terrified.  Yet his father is incapable of forming attachments, just like everyone else in the community.  Releasing Gabriel is a disappointment to him, and that is all.

When Jonas asks his father if he loves him, after learning about love from the memories, he gets this reaction.

There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!" (16)

His father feels surprised, and awkward.  Love is awkward.  His father does not love him, because love does not exist in the community.  His father cannot love him.  His father cares about him as a teacher cares about a child, because that is what the Father and Mother do in Jonas’s community.  They are not real parents.  Jonas loves Gabriel as a brother.  He has formed real attachments.  Jonas’s father cannot appreciate the real value of human life, and therefore cannot appreciate when he takes it.

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The Giver

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