The Giver Questions and Answers
by Lois Lowry

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Why doesn't the mother want Lily to be Birthmother in The Giver? The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 3, Jonas's family meets Gabriel for the first time, and Lily comments that she hopes to be assigned as a Birthmother when she grows up. Lily's mother instantly chastises her daughter for her comment, and says there is "very little honor in that Assignment." Lily responds to her mother by mentioning that her friend Natasha told her that Birthmothers get to eat wonderful food, have generous exercise periods, and play games to amuse themselves most of the time. Lily's mother then corrects her daughter by saying that Birthmothers have easy lives for only three years and then become Laborers until they enter the House of the Old. Jonas's father also mentions that Birthmothers never even get to see their children, which is an occupation left to the Nurturers. Overall, Lily's mother does not want her daughter to become a Birthmother because she knows that after three years of being lazy, Lily will have a hard life as a Laborer. 

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Little Lily, who still carries a comfort elephant, thinks she would like the assignment of Birthmother because she finds the newchildren so cute. But, in Chapter 3 when she says before her mother that she hopes to be a Birthmother, her mother exclaims, "Lily!...Don't say that. There's very little honor in that assignment."

Lily does not understand why her mother reacts this way because she has talked with her friend Natasha who knows a Ten nearby.  This Ten does volunteer work at the Birthing Center and relates how the Birthmothers get fed well, enjoy gentle exercise periods, and mostly amuse themselves the rest of the time.  But, Lily's mother knows that the Birthmothers only serve for three years, and after three children that are given hard labor and work until they no longer can.  In short, the Birthmothers are much like brood mares, used for their reproductive qualities, and then relegated to lives of inconsequential value.


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