The Giver Questions and Answers
by Lois Lowry

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At what age are girls given hair ribbons in The Giver?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The specific age that female children in Jonas's society are initially required to wear ribbons in their hair is never explicitly stated. However, Lowry does write that the female citizens are required to have ribbons in their hair until they turn nine years old. Jonas's sister, Lily, is forced to wear ribbons in her hair and the ribbons irritate her until the Ceremony of Nine, where she is allowed to remove them. Similar to the front-buttoned jackets, which children are required to wear until the age of seven, the ribbons in Lily's hair signify that she is still a child. One could surmise that female children are initially required to wear ribbons in their hair when they become toddlers and have long enough hair for ribbons to be worn. By the age of two, most toddlers have a full head of hair, which is when one can assume that ribbons are required to be worn by female children in the story. In Jonas's society, the law requiring female children to wear ribbons in their hair before the age of nine is taken so seriously that the Speaker even makes an announcement reminding the citizens to make sure ribbons are worn properly.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We do not know the answer to this.  The book never actually tells us the age at which girls get their hair ribbons.  We do know the age at which they no longer have to wear ribbons in their hair.  We find that out in Chapter 2.  Jonas's father tells him then that he remembers when his sister became a Nine and was allowed to take the ribbons out of her hair.  However, we are not told when they start wearing them.  So we have to assume that it is fairly early, at a point when their hair has gotten long enough to braid.

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