In Lois Lowry's The Giver, why was a replacement Caleb needed, and is the idea of a replacement child a good one? Why or why not?

In Lois Lowry's The Giver, a replacement Caleb was needed to fill the void of the previous Caleb, who died in an unfortunate accident. Jonas's community believes replacement children are a good idea and necessary to maintain stability and uniformity throughout their society. Given the citizens' lack of humanity and inability to form strong emotional bonds, replacement children serve a specific purpose.

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In Lois Lowry's The Giver, a replacement Caleb was needed because the first Caleb died in an accident. Such occurrences are extremely rare in Jonas’ community, given how planned the society is. The narrator says that the child had wandered away from his parents before they realized it and he had fallen into the river. Such occurrences, according to the narrator, were extremely rare because, the entire community was generally watchful of all the families’ children.

Thus, the parents of the first Caleb needed a replacement child. The first Caleb is described as a “cheerful little four” whom the entire community memorialized together in a Ceremony of Loss. Their ritual consisted of murmuring Caleb’s name softly throughout the day in gradually declining volume and declining frequently so that Caleb “seemed to fade away gradually from everyone's consciousness.” In a society where it is so easy to mourn the loss of a small child, it is also easy to replace that child. However, this is extremely unlike the real world, where such a catastrophe would not be able to fade away slowly over the course of a single day. In the real world, it is not possible to replace a child or, for that matter, to replace anyone, because people are unique.

In our society, parents would mourn the loss of a child far more than they do in Jonas’ society, where people are not encouraged to have deep emotions. The idea of a replacement child is neither a good idea nor a bad one. It is simply unthinkable in a society where each person is unique and people form strong attachments. When the community welcomes the replacement Caleb, they attend a Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, in which they essentially do the reverse of what they did on the day that they said the first Caleb’s name more softly and less frequently. In welcoming the second Caleb, they say his name louder and louder, building to a crescendo. The narrator says that “it was as if the first Caleb were returning,” but in our society, it would be nothing of the kind.

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In chapter six, the entire community gathers to participate and witness the annual December Ceremony. During the first Ceremony, Jonas watches as the community's newchildren are given their names and handed from the Nurturers to their new family units. As the Naming continues, Jonas notices that the audience's applause gets louder when a couple receives a newchild named Caleb. The couple's first child was named Caleb, who tragically passed away at the age of four when he accidentally fell into the river. The entire community had performed the Ceremony of Loss by repeating his name softer and softer until he eventually faded away from everyone's consciousness. Given the committee's strict birth regulations, the fundamental need for stability, and their emphasis on being happy, Caleb needed to be replaced.

In Jonas's society, replacement children are necessary to maintain the stability and emotional comfort level of the community. A replacement child is meant to fill the emotional void left behind by the previous child and bring peace to the family. In addition to bringing stability back into the community, a replacement child also coincides with the community's unique view of humanity and identity. Since individuality is virtually nonexistent and everyone is emotionally shallow, the citizens quickly accept the replacement child with open arms and forget about the previous child, which underscores the lack of humanity in Jonas's community. Overall, replacement children like Caleb make sense to the community and primarily function as a way to maintain a balanced, uniform society.

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First of all, the situation surrounding the previous and the new Caleb(s) shows how important a person's name is to the community. There is value for the individual through the respect shown towards one's life as shown through the Murmur-of-Replacement ceremony as well as the Ceremony of Loss (44). It is wonderful that the community grieves together when the first Caleb is lost and then they celebrate together when a new Caleb is introduced. It is also respectful and wonderful to know that there is no other person in the community who has another's name while one is living. For example, Jonas knows that he is the one and only Jonas in town. People won't get confused as they discuss each other and celebrate in each other's successes. This gives a person a great feeling to know that they are valued as the only Jonas, or the only Caleb, in the community.


On the other hand, once a person passes away, the name can be reused for another person later. Some might say that this devalues the life of the first person who had the name. One might also argue that it would be easier to forget the first Caleb as the second Caleb lives and creates new experiences associated with his life. There also doesn't seem to be any last names present within the community, so a family's name is not perpetuated throughout history. That's significant because last names would create memories of those who have gone before and that is exactly what the Receiver bears so the rest of the community won't suffer under memories.

So, is a replacement Caleb a good idea? For the purposes of Lowry's society, yes, the second Caleb is needed in order to replace the feelings of grief and loss from the first Caleb. The whole point of the society is to have peace every day without the pressures, stress and pain felt from memories. For our society today, however--no! Replacing a child with another one would seem barbaric. That would make us seem like inhuman monsters. Today, we value everyone as an individual and don't want to forget anyone--especially a child who wandered off and died.

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