What is the Ceremony of Loss in The Giver?

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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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