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Jonas is surprised when he first learns that The Receiver of Memory has honor but not power (84). He assumes that since the position is so highly regarded, The Receiver will be able to do whatever he wants to and be able to bring about any changes to the community that he sees fit. The Giver explains that this is not the case.
Jonas assumes that The Giver gets to make choices for the community, but he learns that in fact it is very difficult to bring about change and the community is structured for sameness in everything. The Chief Elder is elected every 10 years, and there is a Committee of Elders that makes decisions. Changes in decisions made by the community are rare, and more of a joke than reality.
The position of Receiver of Memory is considered a high honor, in recognition of what the Receiver does for the community even though most citizens don’t realize it. When Jonas becomes Receiver his classmates are expected to respect him, but even that respect is more formal than actual, as demonstrated by this exchange between Jonas and Asher in chapter 17 when Jonas interrupts Asher playing war:
“Don’t play it anymore,” Jonas pleaded.
“I’m the one who’s training for Assistant Recreation Director,” Asher pointed out angrily. “Games aren’t your area of expertness.”
“Expertise,” Jonas corrected.
“Whatever. You can’t say what we play, even if you are going to be the new Receiver.” Asher looked warily at him. “I apologize for not giving you the respect you deserve,” he mumbled (134).
Although Asher and Jonas have been friends, there is a distance between them now. Asher feels that he has to pay Jonas respect, but he no longer feels close to him as a friend. Asher is also wary of Jonas, who has become an unknown quantity since training for his secret assignment. This respect does not lead him to listen to Jonas or agree to change his ways, however.
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