In The Giver, what is the job of the receiver of memory? Why is it important? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since man is in an imperfect state, in order to create a perfect state, those who would design utopias find that certain controls must be created. Such is the case in Lois Lowry's dystopian society in which the environment is controlled, population is controlled, hormonal activity is controlled, and thoughts are controlled. The memory of anything that caused pain or emotional or mental disturbance has been erased in the general population. Because there has been this eradication of negative conditions in the human body and psyche, some of the positive results of the human condition have also been eradicated. One such positive aspect of pain and misfortune is that people learn from such experiences and can, thus, make wiser judgments about present and future dilemmas that present themselves.

The Receiver of Memory has the remembrance of the past transmitted to him. He receives such memories as pain and suffering, color, emotions, and many sensations such as that of feeling sunshine, rain, cold, heat, etc. The purpose of the Giver is explained to the Receiver:

...when they [the Committee of the Elders] are faced with something that they have not experienced before. Then they call upon me to use the memories and advise them. But it very seldom happens.

The purpose of the Receiver of Memory is to hold these important memories that can be used for advising the Elders. He will be the successor to the Giver and be called upon to advise the Elders in times of need by tapping into the past. The Giver tells Jonas, who is the new Receiver of Memory, that a previous Receiver was once released, and the memories that she held were lost. When these memories were needed later on, "It was chaos." The Elders struggled and suffered until they assimilated these memories. "But it certainly made them aware of how they need a Receiver to contain all that pain. Everyone had access to memories."