Chapter 1 Summary

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. However, 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....

(The entire section is 521 words.)