In Lowry's The Giver, what is so different about the bearded elder? Why is he significant?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Lois Lowry's The Giver, the chief elder with the beard is the Receiver. When he gives memories to Jonas, he becomes the Giver. He is the one who will train Jonas to be the next Receiver of Memory. He is vitally significant to the whole community. Without him, they would not be able to live equally under Sameness. The Receiver holds all of the memories, wisdom, pain and joy of the history of the world. By doing this, the rest of the community can live balanced and safe lives free from war, pollution, and other hostile consequences found in free societies. Because the Receiver must bear the weight of the world's civilizations on his shoulders, he is allowed to live his life differently from everyone else--this might be why he wears a beard. For example, in chapter 8, Jonas has never seen him at the ceremonies before. Consequently, he recognizes some interesting things as shown in the following passage:

"The Committee of Elders was sitting together in a group; and the Chief Elder's eyes were now on one who sat in the midst but seemed oddly separate from them. It was a man Jonas had never noticed before, a bearded man with pale eyes. He was watching Jonas intently" (61).

Jonas mentions a few characteristics about the Giver that are different from the other elders. First, he has a beard and pale eyes. Mentioning these things suggests that no one else in the community has a beard and pale eyes. The beard and paleness of the eyes are physical differences that show a separation between him and the rest of the community. On the other hand, Jonas, Gabriel, and the Giver all have pale eyes, which suggests a connection that no other community member has. Additionally, the beard that the Giver has signifies age and wisdom that no one else has. Next, the Giver seems to be separate from the other elders because he is. He has wisdom beyond anything the other elders can even fathom, and this can be identified in his character and demeanor as he sits with the others. Finally, the fact that he is interested in Jonas signals to the reader that they will soon have more in common than pale eyes.