Jonas changes from an obedient and immature child to an independent, strong-willed and sensitive young man. When the book begins, Jonas doesn’t question his society. He is the same as everyone else, and doesn’t even know that he is different. When he is given the special job of Receiver of Memory, Jonas realizes that his community is very different than what he thought it was. He can’t tolerate the reality, and leaves.
Jonas shares the time when he was frightened by a jet plane flying over his community. Like the other citizens, he reacted with mindless obedience to the incident. When told to go inside by the community’s omnipresent speaker, Jonas went inside.
Instantly, obediently, Jonas had dropped his bike on its side on the path behind his family's dwelling. He had run indoors and stayed there, alone. His parents were both at work, and his little sister, Lily, was at the Childcare Center where she spent her after-school hours. (Ch. 1)
Jonas notes the tone of dry amusement when the Speaker tells everyone the pilot will be released. Like everyone else in his community, he has no idea what release means. He knows the pilot made a mistake and is being punished. He thinks nothing else about it at this time.
When Jonas begins his training, you see him slowly begin to change as he learns that a different life is possible. His community embraces the concept of Sameness, which means that no one makes choices. No one feels emotions. Differences are not tolerated. In the memories, Jonas sees that people used to care about one another.
The Giver shares with Jonas his favorite memory, involving a family with grandparents in it. Jonas is impressed and overwhelmed with the feelings in the memory. His community has no families, and no closeness. Family units exist temporarily, and only for practical child-rearing purposes. There is no attachment.
Jonas blurted out what he was feeling. "I was thinking that ... well, I can see that it wasn't a very practical way to live, with the Old right there in the same place, where maybe they wouldn't be well taken care of, the way they are now, and that we have a better-arranged way of doing things. But anyway, I was thinking, I mean feeling, actually, that it was kind of nice, then. (Ch. 16)
Jonas confesses that he liked the feeling of love. He even asks his parents if they love him. They react with amusement. They chastise him for using outdated language. He realizes that no one in his community can ever understand love. It may not be practical, but that doesn’t make it right.
When Jonas finally learns what release means, you can definitely tell that he has changed. He has seen death, in the memories. When he watches a video of his father releasing a newborn twin, he knows that he is killing it. Jonas finds out that Gabe, the toddler who has been staying with his family, is going to be released to. He cannot be obedient anymore.
He pushed firmly again at the pedal with his foot and continued riding along the road. It was not safe to spend time looking back. He thought of the rules he had broken so far: enough that if he were caught, now, he would be condemned. (Ch. 21)
Jonas leaves to save the baby, but also to save his community. He knows that if he leaves, the memories will return to them. He wants the community to have the opportunity to live a full life, with feelings and emotions, and the choices humans are meant to have.