The Giver Questions and Answers
by Lois Lowry

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What was the first lie that Jonas told his parents in The Giver? explain please

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Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jonas's first lie comes in Chapter 16 when he asks his parents if they love him. This simple question earns him a gentle rebuke from his parents.

There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!"
"What do you mean?" Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had expected.
"You father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete," his mother explained carefully.

Jonas's confusion at his parent's response comes from his experience of the Giver's favorite memory, that of a family exchanging presents at Christmas time. For Jonas, the word "love" is far from generalized -- its meaning is specific to his experience of that memory and the feelings it evokes: warmth, happiness, family. It is at this point that he realizes the Giver's memories have changed and separated him from his parents (and everyone else, for that matter). His parents go on to give him a little lesson about the importance of "precise language" -- "of course our community can't function smoothly if people don't use precise language," his mother explains -- but to Jonas it is clear that their notions of precision do not include the feelings that the Giver's memories have made him able to perceive. It is literally impossible to talk to them about it -- there are no words. Jonas meekly responds to his parents by thanking them for the lesson -- "his first lie." Jonas is not, in fact, grateful. His meekness may be deceptive, but he is being true to himself, which possibly could mean defying not only his parents but his entire society.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The first time Jonas lies, he tells his parents that he understand that the word “love” is imprecise and should not be used in chapter 16.

When Jonas is chosen as Receiver of Memory, he gets a list of instructions.  One of the instructions is: “You may lie.”  This shocks Jonas, because “precision of language” is so important in the community.

He had been trained since earliest childhood, since his earliest learning of language, never to lie. (p. 70)

Jonas is disturbed by the permission to lie.  Jonas has never been tempted to lie, and he begins to worry that some other members of the community might be allowed to as well.

When Jonas is asked about his dreams by his parents, he is “not ready to lie” but not able to tell the truth, so he tells a half-truth that he slept soundly.

When Jonas asks his parents if they love him, he gets a lecture on precision of language.  They tell him that love is “meaningless.”

Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory. (p. 127)

This is when he realizes how wide the gulp has grown between himself and his parents.  He is no longer just like anyone else in the community.


Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book) (p. 70). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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itismeellie2000 | Student

Jonas Asked His Perents If they loved him.