Chapter 17 Summary
A surprise holiday is announced at the start of the seventeenth chapter, and Jonas is thrilled. He no longer finds school as meaningful as it once was for him. However, a surprise holiday is great news for everyone, not just Jonas. His parents have the day off as well. As always, the community has planned carefully, and substitute workers take care of Nurturing and Food Production. They will be given a holiday on another day.
Riding his bicycle, Jonas sets off to find his friends, Asher and Fiona. He reflects that since he stopped taking the pill that prevents the Stirrings, pleasurable but embarrassing dreams have returned. Moreover, Jonas notices that the way he feels emotions has changed. Language in the community is supposed to be precise so as to prevent misunderstandings, and after careful thought, Jonas decides that he feels things more “deeply.” He recalls Lily’s complaints about a visitor from a nearby community cutting in line. She did not feel angry but rather felt a sort of shallow impatience and exasperation. Now Jonas is aware of what anger is and what it can feel like.
When he finds his friends, they are playing a game. There are two groups of children that they attack and counter attack each other with imaginary weapons. After they are hit with the weapons, they mime exaggerated postures of dying, giggling all the while. Jonas, who is now aware of war, finds the game repulsive and begins to break down. His emotional outburst disturbs the other children, who simply decide to leave and play elsewhere. Only Asher and Fiona remain, and Asher is irritated with Jonas for breaking up the game. When Jonas asks his friend to stop playing the game, Asher is indignant, pointing out that he has been assigned to recreation. He then apologizes for not showing Jonas, the Receiver, proper respect. When Jonas continues trying to persuade Asher, his friend replies, “I said I apologize, Jonas.” Jonas is forced to accept the apology automatically, and he realizes that he has the power to change nothing. He looks at Fiona and reflects that she is lovely, but she will never be able to return his love.
Back home, Gabriel is starting to walk and can even say the first syllable of his name. Jonas’s father now brings home a discipline wand when he returns from Nurturing to help Gabriel learn how to behave. Fortunately, the infant is easygoing. Jonas’s father will have to release one of a set of twins when they are born. The decision is simple, based on weight. Lily speculates about what happens to children who go Elsewhere. Jonas’s mother suggests that Lily’s speculations could lead her to be assigned to become a storyteller, a position that has been empty in the community for some time. All of this leads Lily to wonder whether everyone has a twin that has been released to Elsewhere.