Chapter 16 Summary
After receiving the memory of warfare, Jonas is reluctant to return to receive memories from the Giver again. However, the decision is not his; Jonas has been selected. Warfare is awful, but the Giver is quick to point out that there are many good memories. Jonas recalls birthday parties, which celebrate individuality, and museums that celebrate beautiful artwork. Jonas asks about the Giver’s favorite memory. He is surprised when the Giver transmits his favorite memory to Jonas. It is a scene with people of all ages—children, parents, and an older couple as well—gathered around a tree, which is indoors and decorated with red and green lights. People are cooking nearby. Others are exchanging presents. When Jonas returns from the memory, he cannot name the holiday, but he recalls feelings of warmth, family, and happiness. There is also another feeling, which the Giver helps Jonas to identify as love.
Jonas inquires about the elderly couple, and the Giver explains that they are grandparents. A long time ago—“back and back and back”—parents did not become “childless adults” after their children grew up. They remained a part of the family. Jonas is quick to point out that there are disadvantages to this organization. It puts the elderly at risk of not being cared for. Additionally, the family in the memory had a fireplace and candles, which is clearly dangerous. On the other hand, Jonas admits that the candles and fireplace did feel “warm.”
When Jonas returns home, he asks his parents whether they love him, and they laugh at this question. Jonas’s father is surprised to hear such imprecise language from a member of his family. Jonas’s mother explains that love has become a generalized word that is now so meaningless it is nearly obsolete. Instead, Jonas could ask whether his parents enjoy his company or whether they are proud of his accomplishments. When Jonas’s parents ask whether he understands, Jonas lies for the first time as he thanks them for helping him.
The chapter closes with Jonas once again taking care of Gabriel. The child has slept soundly in Jonas’s care for four nights in a row and the Nurturers are very pleased with Gabriel’s progress. However, when Gabriel starts sleeping on his own, he again has fretful nights. That night, Jonas tells the baby that the world could be different. For example, there could be love. The next morning, Jonas does not take the pill that stops the Stirrings.