Through much of The Giver, Jonas believes that Release is a positive thing. He understands it as a peaceful process by which very old or terminally ill people die with dignity and are appropriately celebrated with formal rites. He gradually comes to understand that the process is helped along. Still, he accepts the dominant social view that this type of euthanasia is necessary and usually benevolent, as it eases suffering. He can accept that it is also done as a punishment to those who break society’s rules.
Jonas’s father’s job as a Nurturer means that he cares for infants, but it also requires him to Release the unfit babies. The process involves lethally drugging them and disposing of their body without ceremony. In a pair of twins, the weaker and smaller baby will be released. His father’s empathy for one weak twin influences him to name him, which is against policy, and extend additional care to this baby, Gabriel.
After Jonas reveals that he does not really understand what happens when a twin is Released, the Giver suggests that he watch the process on tape. In this way, Jonas discovers the truth about Release by watching his father kill a baby with a lethal injection. He is beset by previously unknown, powerful sensations. These emotions are so strong that he feels that he is being physically ripped apart.
The horrible experience of learning these terrible truths all at once changes Jonas forever. He is determined to become a reformer who will stop society from killing babies. This determination ends up turning into his plan to flee the community and to take Gabriel with him to spare the child from his scheduled Release.