Jonas lives in an allegedly "utopian" community, where people must adhere to strict laws and conform to society's culture to maintain stability and comfort. Jonas's community is also founded on the principles of Sameness. Sameness eliminates individuality, transforms the natural landscape, and alters how citizens experience the world. There are no colors, animals, feelings, or exciting experiences in Jonas's community. There is also no pain, discomfort, or emotional trauma.
In order to maintain a uniform, stable environment, the Receiver of Memory is required to harness all memories of the past before Sameness. These memories include traumatic experiences like war, famine, pain, and disease. The Receiver also holds positive memories like color, music, love, and pleasant experiences. The Receiver is tasked with securing these valuable memories of life before Sameness to protect the population from any form of suffering.
Before Jonas was selected to be the community's next Receiver of Memory, a previous Receiver committed suicide, and her memories spread through the community. The naive, sensitive population struggled to deal with the traumatic memories, and chaos ensued until the memories were collected.
Unfortunately, even seemingly positive memories like family and love are considered a threat to the community's stability and only survive in the Receive of Memory's mind. In addition to preserving memories of the past and protecting the population from trauma, the Receiver's main job is to advise the Committee of Elders when it makes a significant decision. The Receiver has the wisdom to make an informed decision because they recall life before Sameness. For example, the Receiver advised the committee to not increase the population because it could result in starvation and warfare.