Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on April 21, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 522

When Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver opens, December is coming and Jonas is confused about his feelings. He does not feel frightened.

Jonas has only felt frightened once, when a jet flew over the community a year ago. Everyone in the community had seen planes pick up and drop off cargo, but a needle-nosed jet was something out of the ordinary. Every member of the community stopped to watch the jet and wait for instructions. Before long, a voice announced via loudspeaker that everyone should take cover in a nearby building. Obediently, everyone in the community got off of their bicycles and entered a nearby building. The stillness of the waiting community made Jonas feel frightened.

The voice quickly returned to announce that the jet pilot made a simple navigational mistake. For this infraction, it was announced, he would be “released” from the community. The people found this reassuring, though it certainly was not good news for the pilot. Release from the community is the worst thing that can happen, unless the person is old and the release is a celebration of that person’s accomplishments in life. At school, students who joke about release are dealt with sternly.

Jonas notes that it is important to use the correct words to describe his feelings. He recalls an incident in which his friend, Asher, arrived to school late. He apologized to his community and explained that he felt distraught watching fishermen separate salmon. Although the class automatically accepted his apology, Jonas’s teacher explained that distraught is too strong a word to use when describing this experience; a better word would be distracted.

Considering his year’s group, Jonas finally realizes that all of the Elevens feel similarly about December, and it strikes him that he feels “apprehensive.”

Emotions are a confusing topic, so Jonas is fortunate that his family shares their feelings every day after supper. Usually, Jonas and his sister argue over who goes first, but this night. Jonas invites Lily to start. Lily explains that she felt angry while at school because a boy from another community kept ignoring the line to use the slide. She even makes a fist. Lily’s family helps her see how the boy could have been ignorant of the rules because he comes from another community. In fact, he probably felt stupid for not knowing the rules, which makes him an object of pity rather than anger.

Jonas’s parents have more pressing problems. Jonas’s father, who is a Nurturer, is concerned over an infant who is not growing quickly enough. The struggling child may be released if Jonas’s father does not take action soon. He mentions that he might start bringing the child home for extra care. Jonas’s mother works in the Department of Justice. She has to deal with a repeat offender who might be released if he breaks the community’s rules again.

Finally, Jonas explains that he is feeling apprehensive about the Ceremony of Twelve, which will take place in December. Jonas’s parents dismiss Lily so that they can talk to Jonas about this privately.

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Chapter 2 Summary