When are the children given their numbers in The Giver?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Jonas's highly structured, regulated society, only fifty children are born and added to the population each year. There are an equal number of males and females added to the population, and each newborn receives a number at birth (1–50). In the novel, Jonas's number is nineteen because he was the nineteenth newchild born his year. During the annual ceremonies, Jonas is always the nineteenth person to take the stage. It is also interesting to note that each child's birth number is rarely used and that sometimes parents refer to their children by using their numbers whenever the child misbehaves. During the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes extremely anxious and afraid when the Chief Elder skips his number and calls on Pierre, who is number twenty. Fortunately, the Chief Elder did not make a mistake. The Elder explains to the community that Jonas was specially selected to be the next Receiver of Memory.

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When the children are born, one boy and one girl to each couple is all that are allowed, they are called new-children.  On page 11 the narrator reveals, "Each December, all the new-children born in the previous year turned one.  One at a time-there were always fifty in each year's group, if none had been released- they had been brought to the stage by the Nurturers who had cared for them since birth.  Some were already walking, wobbly on their unsteady legs; others were no more than a few days old, wrapped in blankets, held by their Nurtures."

When the children turned one year old they were assigned a number so there was always a group called, "ones," "twos" and so on until they reached 12.  At the age of twelve there was another ceremony and the 12's were given their life assignments for the group.

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