What is the memory that gives Jonas the will to survive in The Giver?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonas is sustained by memories of food and sunshine when he is on the run, and the memory of the good times gives him the strength to keep going when he is losing his will. 

Jonas goes on the run when he learns that Gabe is going to be released.   Jonas had been planning to escape with more preparation, but saving Gabe becomes the first priority.  Thus, when Jonas did escape it was with much less of The Giver’s help than originally planned. 

The Giver was to have given Jonas memories of strength to sustain him on the difficult journey.  Jonas has to rely on the ones he has, and share them with Gabe.   He runs out much sooner than he would have, and his strength begins to ebb. 

After running through his store of food memories, Jonas turns to memories of warmth when he hits heavy snow. 

He pressed his hands into Gabriel's back and tried to remember sunshine. For a moment it seemed that nothing came to him, that his power was completely gone. Then flickered suddenly, and he felt tiny tongues of heat begin to creep across and into his frozen feet and legs. (Ch. 23) 

After this memory, Jonas has the will to keep struggling.  Even though the memory was short, it is enough to give him the mental stamina that he needs to push forward.  Jonas is weak and the terrain is treacherous.  However, he needs to think of Gabe as well as himself. 

But his mind was alert now. Warming himself ever so briefly had shaken away the lethargy and resignation and restored his will to survive. He began to walk faster on feet that he could no longer feel. But the hill was treacherously steep; he was impeded by the snow and his own lack of strength. (Ch. 23) 

Jonas reaches the top of the hill, and his mind is flooded with his own memories of good times.  He sees a sled, and feels that the way downhill will be easier.  Unfortunately, things are a little ambiguous here.  Jonas either succumbs to his exhaustion as he loses consciousness, or he is rescued by the people he hears singing.

Read the study guide:
The Giver

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