Why is it necessary for this community to have a Receiver in The Giver?

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The community has a Receiver of Memory to advise them on policy that requires knowledge of history.

The community has embraced a concept called Sameness, which means that all decisions are made for the citizens by the community.  In most cases this means that the Book of Rules determines how people go about their lives, but sometimes a committee of Elders needs to make decisions about whether or not rules will change.  If the committee is not sure what to do, they call upon the Receiver of Memory for advice.

The Receiver of Memory is the most important job in the community.  It is a position of great prestige, although The Giver explains to Jonas that prestige is not the same thing as power.

"But sir," Jonas suggested, "since you have so much power--"

The man corrected him. "Honor," he said firmly. "I have great honor. So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power. …” (Ch. 11)

The Giver’s point is that people in the community respect him and sometimes ask him for advice, but he does not really have any direct impact on policy or decisions.  When the community has a question about what would be the best way to do something, they can ask him because he and he alone has the wisdom of generations.

The Receiver of Memory has memories from every generation back and back and back to the founding of the community.  Some of the information he needs is also found in the thousands of books that line the walls of his dwelling.  No one else in the community is allowed to have books other than rule books and instruction books. 

Alone among all of the members of the community, The Receiver of Memory is the only one who knows how to feel.  Other community members have no idea that the Receiver has emotions, because they do not know what real emotions are.  They have a vague concept of feelings, but these feelings are easily dismissed in morning and nightly rituals for the Telling of Feelings and Dreams.

The Giver explains to Jonas that the committee rarely asks for his advice, so that he can use the wisdom of the memories to tell them what to do.

"But it very seldom happens. Sometimes I wish they'd ask for my wisdom more often--there are so many things I could tell them; things I wish they would change. But they don't want change. Life here is so orderly, so predictable--so painless. It's what they've chosen." (Ch. 13)

The Giver gave Jonas an example of when the committee considered adding more population.  As part of Sameness, population is completely controlled and all people are genetically engineered.  There is no natural birth in the community.  Citizens take pills to prevent puberty, which they call Stirrings.  Fifty babies are born each year to women called Birthmothers, who have three babies but never see them.  Babies are raised by Nurturers and then placed in Family Units.

The Giver advised them to leave the numbers as they were.  This is because he had memories of hunger and warfare to advise him.  He did not think it would be good to add more people just so that there would be more labor, because more people would also strain the community’s resources.