What does the word "starving" mean in the book? Has Jonas ever starved? For food, emotion, experience? When/how has or hasn't he starved?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question.  The word “starving” has survived, because Jonas uses it.  He is chided for being imprecise, since everyone in the community has enough food.  It makes you wonder why they still have the word and know its meaning if they don’t want anyone using it.

Food is produced and distributed evenly.  Jonas is even reprimanded for taking home the apple when he sees its color change.  It is a completely communist society in the sense that everyone has a job and everything is shared.

I’d say that Jonas is starving for affection, once he realizes what it is.  No one else in the community knows what love is.  They don’t know what they are missing, but he does.  His relationship with The Giver is not really affectionate, and his parents scold him for using imprecise language when he asks if they love him.

Jonas has not had many experiences either, except through memories.  He eagerly awaits more memories so he can experience more things like grandparents, music and snow.

cmccormick13 | Student

Well, radnada, early on in the story there is a discussion about 'starving.' Has Jonas ever starved? He lives in a community where every tangible thing that a person could possibly need is provided. Jonas learns during a reprimand that he has, in fact, never starved because the community provides food for him.  Jonas is living a completely programmed life where he wants for nothing. Or does he?  Later in the book the Giver shares a memory with Jonas - one with a family, a roaring fire, grandparents, and Jonas works hard to identify the feeling - he struggles to wrap his brain around this emotion the Giver labels as love. Has Jonas, perhaps, starved for love? He asks his parents how they feel about him, and they go on and on about how they are proud of him, but they never say they love him. What are the feelings Jonas has for Gabe? They perhaps come as close to love as Jonas has ever felt.  And once he and Gabe escape, Jonas finally learns what physical starving is, as he searches for food and shelter to keep him and Gabe alive.

So - in the community, perhaps Jonas *did* starve - for experiences like - sledding down a hill, soaking in the sun on a hot summer day.  He starved for love.

After he left the community to save Gabe's life - he did learn about physical starvation.  And fought his way through it.

Hope that helped!

sharenej | Student

When he says he's starving, he gets reprimanded, right? He's reminded of "preciseness of language"-- to mean exactly what you say. No one in the community is ever starving in regards to food. 

I think the idea here, though, is that the members of the community are starved of love and, as you mentioned, emotion and experience. 

They have no memories of the past, they are devoid of any emotion. They take pills to keep anyone from developing feelings for another.

So to answer your question, when Jonas remembers that he said he was starving, he just meant he was hungry. No one in the community starves. The members of the community always have enough food, but they are starving in terms of human emotion and feelings.