1. can you think of a time either in present day or in the past history when certain people have been "released" for varius reasons?
2. What is the significance of a release?
There are occasions in our society where we allow or cause the death of others, and describe or think about it euphemistically. One of the comments my class made this year when we read The Giver was that we treat animals much the way they treat people in the community. When an animal is too old or infirm, we “put it down” and do not consider this a negative thing. Sometimes we do this just to avoid the increasing level of care an older animal needs, and sometimes to avoid paying for it. We celebrate the animal’s life and tell ourselves that we are putting it out of its misery. There is really little difference. At animal shelters, young animals that seem too small or too many are often euthanized. Animals with behavioral problems are usually euthanized as well.
As the other editors have here stated, "release" in this novel is really a smoke-screen or literary euphemism for an act of murder. It is an example of how language is used to cover up the real intention and act and soften the severity of the crime. Think of how some bomb damage is described as "collateral damage" rather than "terrorist outrage" to give you more ideas in this area. To add to pohnpei397's idea of eugenics in the Nazi regime and how they justified the "cleansing" of people such as homosexuals, the disabled and Jews, you might want to go back further in history to more ancient civilisations where people were selected to be sacrificed to the Gods, and this was seen as a great honour.
A release, in this book, is just a euphemism for euthanasia or execution. The significance, I guess, of releasing people is that it enforces and emphasizes the idea that the people of the community are not very important as individuals. If a person is too much of a hassle to deal with (like Gabe) they will be released. When a society does this, it is showing that it cares more for the convenience of the many than for the rights of individuals.
The most obvious example of "release" in my mind comes from early Nazi Germany when the government was killing mentally retarded people. Depending on your political point of view, you can talk about the death penalty as "release" or you can talk about assisted suicide as "release." Both of those occur today in various places.
In the book "The Giver" one very significant time that a person was released was the first receiver. She was actually the Givers own daughter named Rosemary. Rosemary was so unhappy after being given the memories of being lonely that she chose to be released.
Another episode of release occurs when Jonas' father has twin newborn boys. He weighs one and then the other. They are both fairly close in weight, but one is a few ounces different. The heavier of the two is cleaned and sent to be dressed. The younger of the two is given an injection in his fontal on the top of his head. The infant cries and then goes limp. He is put into a small box and pushed down as shoot like he was garbage.
2. Release is believed to be something good in the society. They celebrate when someone is released. However, it is really murder. They are killing people off who are not perfect or of no positive use in society such as the old.