The Giver Questions and Answers
by Lois Lowry

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Why did Jonas leave the town in The Giver?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout Jonas's training sessions with the Giver, he becomes increasingly jaded about the community's way of life and questions the founding concept of Sameness. Jonas desires to live in a world full of colors and individual choices, where people have control over their own lives and interact with their natural, unpredictable environment. He also questions the family structure in his community and desires to experience true love like people in the past. In addition to his negative feelings regarding Sameness, Jonas is appalled and horrified after he discovers the true meaning of the term release. In Chapter 19 , the Giver shows Jonas footage of his father lethally injecting a newborn child during a release and Jonas refuses to return home. Jonas and the Giver formulate a plan for him to escape the community, which goes awry after he learns that Gabriel will be released the next day. Jonas ends up escaping his community to save Gabriel's life and steals his father's bike and food...

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cjmclemore | Student

Jonas's time with The Giver opens his mind to "seeing beyond" through not only the memories he receives from The Giver, but also the emotions that go along with the memories. Nothing in the "sameness" life of the community has prepared him for this experience, and while he is somewhat overwhelmed at first, he comes to realize the enormity of all the community has lost. It is this recognition that ultimately secures Jonas's flight from the community.

In Chapter 17, he is confronted with the repercussions of this loss when he sees his friends playing a game of war, which he had not understood the reality of until The Giver shared the memory of the soldier with him. Defeated, he reflects that,

With his new, heightened feeling, he was overwhelmed by the sadness at the way the others had laughed and shouted, playing at war. But he knew that they could not understand why, without the memories. He felt such love for Asher and for Fiona. But they could not feel it back, without the memories. And he could not give them those. Jonas knew with certainty that he could change nothing.

When Jonas meets with The Giver for his next session, his questions about what happens with a "release" in the community serve as a starting point that further fuel his concerns about the community and the self-imposed rules that govern decisions. The next several sessions build on this as Jonas learns that when a Receiver of Memories is released, the memories received flow back to the community. When Jonas learns that Gabriel is due to be released, this knowledge is the turning point for Jonas who has grown to love Gabriel and can't bear to see him killed, but more so for the realization that by leaving, he can give back the memories to the people he loves and share with them both the joys and sorrows that make life worth living.