What happens to the Receiver's memories when he gives them to Jonas in The Giver?
When the Giver gives a memory to Jonas, he loses the feelings and the burdens associated with it. He may remember the ideas presented in the memory, but he also releases the weight of the personal experience that goes with it. For example, the Giver may still remember what a sled is and that it is used for sliding down a hill topped with snow, but he won't remember the joy, thrill, cold, or the whole experience of the memory. That is why in chapter 15, when Jonas finds the Giver overwhelmed with pain, the one way to release that pain is for the Giver to give whatever memory it is to Jonas. In this case, it was the memory of war. The memory transfer is explained in the following passage:
"The hands came, and the pain came with them and through them. Jonas braced himself and entered the memory which was torturing The Giver" (118).
The above textual evidence shows that as the Giver puts his hands on Jonas's back, the pain of the memory of war immediately transfers upon contact. The fact that the burden of the feelings associated with each memory transfers is important because of the plan they devise to rid the community from their current way of life. Once Jonas learns about what "release" really means, all of the other reasons to end the community's lifestyle become even more important. In order to stop the killing of babies and the elderly, and for everyone to experience color, joy and love, the memories need to be released. The only way to do that is if Jonas escapes. The Giver explains the process of giving and receiving memories as follows:
"I've turned over many of them to you in the past year. And I can't take them back. There's no way for me to get them back if I have given them" (155).
The Giver decides to stay while Jonas escapes so he can help everyone to absorb the burden of the memories as they flood back into the community. For a people who have never felt any burdens in their lives, they'll need all the help they can get.