In Lois Lowry's The Giver, what happens when twins are born?
Jonas learns about what happens to twins in chapter 19. Up until this point, Jonas has learned about Sameness, Climate Control, pain, suffering, and hunger. Also before this chapter, Jonas learns about a time when the Giver advised the elders not to bring more children into the world because overpopulation can lead to hunger. In an effort to maintain the population's needs without subjecting people to hunger and other consequences of overpopulation, the community's policy is to release, or kill, the smaller of any twins that are born. Thus, by chapter 19, the Giver decides that Jonas is ready to witness his own father releasing a twin by lethal injection. Because babies' veins are too small to find for such injections, a vein in the forehead is accessed for this purpose. The release is described as follows:
"To his surprise, his father began very carefully to direct the needle into the top of newchild's forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly . . . He pushed the plunger very slowly, injecting the liquid into the scalp vein until the syringe was empty . . . the newchild, no longer crying, moved his arms and legs in a jerking motion. Then he went limp. His head fell to the side, his eyes half open. Then he was still" (186-187).
It is a very sad scene, and Jonas isn't the same after seeing what happens to the smaller one of the twins. Again, the community does this in order to maintain the population's numbers so everyone can be fed and Sameness can function properly.
Whenever a set of twins is born, one is released and the other is allowed to live. The way they determine which one lives is by weighing them. Whichever one weighs more, no matter by how small a margin, is kept and the other is released. We find this out towards the end of Chapter 14.
The reason they do this is because they need to have the right number of kids born in their society each year. If they allow twins to live, they will have too many kids and there might not be enough food for everyone.