Life in Jonas’s community is carefully structured and regulated. When change comes, it is often symbolic and illustrates an important lesson. As the sixth chapter of The Giver opens, Jonas’s mother is tying ribbons into Lily’s hair, which the young Seven dislikes. Lily craves to be independent and an adult, and she is very pleased that today is the last day she has to wear ribbons. Jonas has also been looking forward to this day, the Ceremony of Twelve.
Unfortunately for Lily, she is still not old enough to be assigned a bicycle. Still, Jonas reminds her, every year brings changes. This year she receives her jacket with buttons on the front; until their seventh year, children wear jackets with buttons in the back so they can learn the value of interdependence. Meanwhile, the Tens have their hair cut short to signify that they are about to enter the world of adults and that they need to act with greater maturity.
Each year brings changes, and each part of the ceremony is significant, but the most popular part is the Naming, during which children are given to their family units. Jonas’s father is near the stage so he can help present the children to their new caretakers. Jonas’s father is especially happy because Gabriel has been given an extra year to develop. Gabe will stay with Jonas’s family for the following year for extra care, though each member of the family had to sign an agreement not to become attached to Gabriel. They must be prepared not to complain when Gabriel is given to his family unit the following year.
One naming is particularly moving. A family in Jonas’s community recently lost their child, a Four named Caleb. There was a ceremony of loss during which the entire community chanted Caleb’s name in decreasing volume. By the time their whispers became inaudible, the community had let go of Caleb. Now the community chants “Caleb” for this new child, but in increasing volume. Jonas reflects that “it was as if the first Caleb were returning.” Another child is named Roberto, and Jonas considers this child as the replacement of the man who was recently released at the House of the Old. Of course, there is no chanting for this new Roberto—Loss and Release are not the same.
The community breaks for lunch before the Twelves receive their assignments. Asher is nervous and tells stories of how past Twelves applied for “Elsewhere,” a choice that applicants can make if they do not feel like they fit in to the community. Jonas scoffs at these stories, but Asher insists that people have applied for Elsewhere before. It seems unlikely to Jonas that people would apply for Elsewhere, because the Committee of Elders works so hard to make sure people are given proper assignments.