What is the conflict in chapter 6 of The Giver?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The conflict in chapter 6 is an internal conflict that results from the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve, external character vs. society conflicts with characters who do not fit in .

On the surface, not much happens in this chapter.  However, this is an exposition-heavy chapter. What that means is that we learn a lot about the community in this chapter.  We are given extensive details about the rituals, and through Jonas’s reflection they foreshadow upcoming important events.

Jonas is concerned about the upcoming ceremony.  The Ceremony of Twelve is an important event in a child’s life in the community.  It is a time when the child starts to become an adult.  Jonas is nervous because he has no idea what assignment he will get.  As the ceremony draws nearer, he tries to focus on the other ceremonies, including his sister’s, but you can tell he is uneasy.  This is an internal conflict (character vs. self).  Internal conflicts arise from worry and fear within a character.

He was certain that his Assignment, whatever it was to be, and Asher's too, would be the right one for them. He only wished that the midday break would conclude, that the audience would reenter the Auditorium, and the suspense would end. (Ch. 6)

Like other community members, Jonas has no control over what his assignment will be. However, unlike other children, he does not have any guesses.  He seems to have no predisposition in personality or intelligence that would give him a clue.  For this reason, he is more in suspense that some of the other kids might be.

Jonas's musings during this chapter lead us to some important character vs. society conflicts.  These are conflicts that characters have with the very structure of society.  One such conflict is Gabriel vs. society.  Jonas's father was allowed to bring Gabriel home, but for how long?  

He had been given an unusual and special reprieve from the committee, and granted an additional year of nurturing before his Naming and Placement. Father had gone before the committee with a plea on behalf of Gabriel, who had not yet gained the weight appropriate to his days of life nor begun to sleep soundly enough at night to be placed with his family unit. Normally such a newchild would be labeled Inadequate and released from the community. (Ch. 6)

This conflict foreshadows is the scheduled release of Gabriel.  Gabriel's struggle with the community will last the entire book, and will be one that Jonas will be closely connected with.  Jonas will become very interested in Gabe, and come to see him as a brother.

Release and death are discussed in this chapter pretty extensively.  Jonas describes how Caleb, a four-year-old, accidentally drowned after falling in the river.  The community performed a Ceremony of Loss for him.  Although release is not explained and the connection between release and death is never explicitly mentioned until much later,  Jonas makes a connection between release and death here.

Another newchild was given the name Roberto, and Jonas remembered that Roberto the Old had been released only last week. But there was no Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony for the new little Roberto. Release was not the same as Loss. (Ch. 6)

The community seems to be able to callously replace one person with another when a person dies.  Roberto and Caleb are both “replaced” with new babies.  The family who lost the Four Caleb was actually given another baby named Caleb!  This creepy fact seems to be a not-so-subtle chastisement for losing their first one. 

The fact that Jonas is thinking about all of this, and Gabriel’s reprieve, is interesting.   As careful as the community is to keep everything orderly and prearranged, there actually is quite a bit of conflict going on.  Gabriel was almost put to death.  Jonas may not completely realize what Gabriel’s narrow escape from release means, but the author not so subtly makes the connection for us here.

Fitting in is extremely important in the community.  This is something we are told over and over again, and it is reinforced in this chapter.  Gabriel is almost released because he does not meet growth targets, even though he is an innocent baby.  We also are told of another child who seems to cause conflict by not fitting in.

He knew that his parents cringed a little, as he did, when Fritz, who lived in the dwelling next door to theirs, received his bike and almost immediately bumped into the podium with it.  Fritz was a very awkward child who had been summoned for chastisement again and again. His transgressions were small ones, always: shoes on the wrong feet, schoolwork misplaced, failure to study adequately for a quiz. But each such error reflected negatively on his parents' guidance and infringed on the community's sense of order and success. (Ch. 6)

Comments like this are often made about Asher too.  Not fitting in, and not being perfect, are not good signs in the community.  Mixing up your words, or not doing something right, or making any mistake, is seen a failure and harshly punished.  This is a character vs. society conflict as well.  Jonas’s community is so rigid that it cannot except mistakes even in its children.

These two chapters, six and seven, really go together.  Chapter six builds toward chapter seven.  Chapter six helps create suspense, as Jonas reflects on his community, because everything he thought he knew is about to be turned upside down when he is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory.  In addition to providing a lot of detail about Jonas’s community, this chapter tells us that hidden conflict lurks, and the society is not so perfect after all, foreshadowing trouble to come.

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