What happened in The Giver in Chapter 11?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Chapter 11 of The Giver is an important chapter to the development of the plot and themes of the book. This is Jonas' first time getting the Giver's memories.  He begins to learn something of the history of his community, and he also begins to question the society in which he lives.

When the chapter opens, Jonas does not know the name of the old man who is giving him these memories. The first memory he receives is that of sledding in the snow.  Snow and the feeling of coldness are new experiences for him. He feels himself on a sled, moving downhill, and even the concept of a hill is new to him. He finds the sled ride experience exhilarating, but this leads him to question the Giver.

First Jonas asks the Giver about this memory, trying to understand why the Giver will no longer have it, expressing concern about the Giver's loss of it. The Giver explains that he has so many more memories, and the loss of this one actually lightens him, a kind of relief from having to carry so many memories, going back to before the beginnings of the community.

Then Jonas asks about the snow, the sled, and the hill, why these things are not part of the community.  The Giver explains that the community uses climate control and "Sameness," which means no unstable weather conditions and also no hills. This made it easier agriculturally for the community, and it also eased transport problems. Jonas expresses that he wished the community did not have complete Sameness, so that people could experience these things, too. He says that the Giver should be able to do this because he perceives that the Giver has power, but the Giver reminds him that while he has honor, that is not the same thing as power.

Then Jonas receives the second memory, which is of sunshine, another sensation and image that Jonas has never experienced.  Jonas learns that sunshine is shielded from the community, in the interests of Sameness. After receiving this memory, he tells the Giver that he was surprised at these memories because they were so pleasant, that he expected them to be painful. 

The Giver provides him with one more memory, which is a painful one, the sensation of sunburn. And this pain is a new sensation for Jonas, too.

After this memory, Jonas is about to depart, and it is at this point that he asks the man his name.  The man responds, "Call me the Giver" (87). 

This is for the reader and Jonas a beginning of understanding of what it means to live in a community that prizes Sameness and that has lost its memory. Jonas has pleasurable and painful experiences in his first tastes of memory and gets a glimmer of insight into what kind of trade off the community has made, giving up both good and bad experiences for the sake of efficiency and control.

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