When do children begin dream-telling in The Giver?

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Dream-telling begins with Threes. 

Dream-telling is a morning ritual used by Jonas’s community.  Like the feeling-telling in the evening, dream-telling is designed to identify, label, and dismiss feelings in the pursuit of Sameness.  The community’s goal is to eliminate all feelings in order to make sure that the citizens are happy, or at least numb. 

The age of Three is actually an important one in Jonas’s world because it is the beginning of maturity.  Jonas says that by age Three, all children are pretty much alike.  The Instructor of Threes is “in charge of the acquisition of correct language” (Ch. 7).  Precise use of language is very crucial to Jonas’s community.  It is part of Sameness, which means that everyone talks alike and thinks alike.  It helps maintain conformity.

Jonas’s father jokingly asks Gabe if he dreams. 

"Gabe?" Father asked, looking down at the basket where the newchild lay gurgling after his feeding, ready to be taken back to the Nurturing Center for the day.

They all laughed. Dream-telling began with Threes. If newchildren dreamed, no one knew. (Ch. 5) 

Everyone dismisses Gabe because he is just a baby that Jonas’s father brings home.  However, Gabe’s very presence in Jonas’s home is an anomaly.  He isn’t supposed to be there.  Every household is assigned and allowed two children and no more.  Jonas’s father gets a special dispensation to bring Gabe home for extra nurturing.  At the time that Jonas’s father asks him if he dreams, Jonas has no idea of the significance of Gabe. 

Jonas doesn’t dream initially.  The first time he has a dream, his parents give him a pill to prevent it (because the dream, sexual in nature, is an indication of puberty).  When he begins his training as Receiver of Memory, he has access to what might be interpreted as a special sort of dream—the community’s collective memories.  He also passes these on to Gabe, accidentally at first and then purposefully.  Jonas and Gabe are both unique.  Jonas is able to envision a world in which feelings are not so easily dismissed.  He learns to accept dreaming and embrace it, along with feeling.

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Children of pre-school age (2-3) often begin talking about what they dreamt about, though these reports usually involve static pictures rather than episodes with characters or emotions. Children may, however, dream in episodes but lack the ability to retell narratives. At this age, children rarely report negative emotions in dreams. At around age 5, children can retell dreams in longer narratives, though they are not always sophisticated and children do so rarely. At age 7, children can often retell dreams more frequently and as more complex narratives with autobiographical elements and episodes. It is possible that all children dream but cannot retell their dreams; the necessary element to dream re-telling, according to scientists (see the reference below), is mental imagery and visuo-spatial skills rather than language development. 


Nir, Y and Tononi, G. Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology. Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Feb;14(2):88-100. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.001. Epub 2010 Jan 14.

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