What is the Ceremony of Loss in The Giver?

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dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Ceremony of Loss is the ceremony which is performed when a community member dies accidentally.  It is very rare for this to occur, especially with children, because the community is "extraordinarily safe, each citizen watchful and protective of all children".  In a society where every element of life is scrupulously planned and regimented, unexpected death has become a rarity.

Despite this, however, Jonas does remember when Caleb, "a cheerful little Four", had inexplicably wandered away unnoticed and fallen into the river.  When Caleb's death had been discovered, the entire community had performed the Ceremony of Loss, with each citizen murmuring the name of Caleb throughout an entire day.  As the day had worn on, the name had been murmured less and less frequently, and with increasing softness.  By the end of the day, the murmuring of the name had ceased altogether, making it seem as if Caleb had faded gradually away from everyone's consciousness".

After the Ceremony of Loss, Caleb's name was never mentioned again, until a Replacement Child was assigned to the family.  This Newchild was also named Caleb, and was presented with a brief Murmur of Replacement Ceremony, with the community murmuring the name for the first time since the loss, softly at first, then with increasing volume and frequency, to make it seem like the old Caleb was indeed returning (Chapter 6).

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andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Ceremony of Loss is mentioned in chapter 6 during the first Ceremony, called The Ceremony for the Ones. This Ceremony also includes the naming Ceremony in which newchildren born in the previous year are handed over to their families and then given their names.

The Ceremony of Loss is performed when a member of the community has passed on. With regard to children, the Ceremony is especially rare, since it is unusual for a child to die; the community is extraordinarily safe and protective. However, when such an unfortunate event occurs, the Ceremony of Loss requires that the deceased's name be murmured by the entire community throughout an entire day. People gradually pronounce the name more and more softly so that its seems as if the deceased has gradually disappeared from everyone's consciousness. 

The name of the child who had passed on in this instance could then be used again for a replacement child to the family who had suffered the loss. A Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony would be held to attribute the name of the lost child to a newchild that had been given to the family. The name would not have been heard since the death of the previous child and it would then be repeated with increasing volume as if the deceased had returned.

The Ceremony of Loss is only performed if a member of the community has died through accident or some other unforeseen event. It is not performed when a member has been released because of old age, committed transgressions which led to release, disappeared, or been a newborn who was released because he or she was deemed unfit to live in the community. It is obvious that the loss of such individuals is not seen as significant enough to perform the Ceremony.

Furthermore, it is only when the Old have been released that their names can be used again. However, no Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony is performed in such an instance since Loss is different from Release. The names of those who have been otherwise released or who have disappeared will not be repeated and are wiped from memory as if they had never existed.  

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