What is an understandable interpretation of the ending of The Giver?

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There are two ways readers can interpret the ending of Lois Lowry's brilliant novel The Giver. One could view the ending from an optimistic point of view, where Jonas and Gabriel narrowly avoid death and end up sledding down a snowy hill toward a pleasant village, where they are accepted and live happily ever after. However, the last sentence of the story makes the ending ambiguous, and the reader must interpret whether or not Jonas was simply experiencing an illusion at the end of his arduous journey. As Jonas is about to sled toward the village, he believes that he hears laughter coming from the small cabins, and Lowry writes, "But perhaps it was only an echo" (180). One could then interpret Jonas's vision as simply a hallucination stemming from his exhausted, malnourished mind. Therefore, it is possible that both Jonas and Gabriel die at the end. If this is the case, then Jonas sacrificed himself to alter the community and give the citizens independence and autonomy. Although this ending is sad, readers can admire Jonas's ultimate sacrifice and examine the consequences attached to fighting for personal freedoms.

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At the end of The Giver, it is assumed that Jonas and little Gabriel reach safety in Elseware.  When Jonas first left his community, search planes had frequently flown overhead.  Jonas had to hide whenever he heard or saw one.  Then that changed:

... the frequency of the planes diminished.  They came less often, and flew, when they did come, less slowly, as if the search had become haphazard and no longer hopeful.  Finally there was an entire day and night when they did not come at all (The Giver, Chapter 21).

Jonas began to have less fear of being caught.  He felt confident that searchers were no longer trying to find he and Gabriel.  Instead, he faced new challenges of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.  Jonas noticed the changes in the scenery.  There were lush forests and refreshing streams.  As Jonas travelled, he "felt that Elsewhere was not far away" (Chapter 23).  

Jonas climbed to the top of a hill with Gabriel.  When he reached the top, he could see a house with glowing lights.  A memory came to him:

...he heard something he knew to be music.  He heard people singing.

It is implied that Jonas and Gabriel rode the sled downhill until they reached the house with the singing people.  This was obviously a place very unlike his community, because people were singing.  It is also implied that it is a safe place.

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