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The Receiver of Memory is a position of honor because it is well-respected, but the position has very little power because all the Receiver can do is make recommendations to the Elders.
Honor means people respect you. Power means you make decisions for others.
Honor is an important concept in Jonas’s community. A person strives for honor. For example, when Lily suggests she wants to be a Birthmother, her mother chides her because there is “very little honor in that Assignment" (ch 3, p. 21). This implies that honor is important to her.
Jonas's parents are thrilled when they find out he has been selected as the Receiver of Memory.
"You've been greatly honored," his mother said. "Your father and I are very proud." (ch 9, p. 67)
When Jonas begins his training, he realizes that The Giver does have some powers others’ don’t. He lives alone. He can give orders. He is allowed to turn the Speaker off.
When The Giver tells Jonas that he wishes they had some of the things they had before Sameness, like hills and weather, The Giver tells him the choice is not theirs to make. This confuses Jonas.
"But sir," Jonas suggested, "since you have so much power—"
The man corrected him. "Honor," he said firmly. "I have great honor. So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power. (ch 11, p. 84)
Although the committee members and Elders consult The Receiver of Memory, and often take his advice, they do not have to. He is not in charge. He has very little actual power. He is more like a figurehead position.
Yet having knowledge is power. Because Jonas and The Giver do know the memories, they are able to see what is wrong with the community. They are able to release the memories back to the people through Jonas’s escape, thus taking some power back in order to try to make their community a better place.
Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
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