As the community members return to their seats in the Auditorium, the Ceremony of Twelve begins. Jonas and Asher have felt apprehensive about this moment for a long time, but as with all things, it is a carefully regulated ceremony with many specific traditions and expectations. The Chief Elder explains that childhood in their community is about learning to fit in and conform. During the Ceremony of Twelve, the community acknowledges differences by looking at what people should do to contribute to the community. Some people enjoy labor, some enjoy caring for others, and still others have an aptitude for science.
After this preamble, the Ceremony of Twelve begins. Each Twelve is called to the stage to receive his or her assignment, but they are not called by their names. Instead, they are called by their numbers, which reminds everyone that each child is born to a number. Jonas is 19 or, more specifically, 11-19. At the moment, he actually has a duplicate, a shy female who just this morning earned her new clothes that mark her as an Eleven.
The first Eleven from Jonas’s group is called and receives her assignment: Fish Hatchery Attendant. It is a job Jonas would not prefer, but the young woman seems pleased with her assignment. Another girl is assigned to be a Birthmother, which Jonas’s mother would not want for Lily, because it lacks prestige. However, Jonas again reflects on the wisdom of the Committee of Elders’s choice. The young woman is strong and will bear children easily. The Committee of Elders makes good choices.
There is a slight change to the ceremony for Asher, during which the Chief Elder shares the process by which the Committee chose his assignment. The community smilingly recalls Asher’s youth, during which he struggled to acquire language, confusing “snack” for “smack.” The mistake resulted in several beatings with the discipline wand. However, Asher has since learned to speak with greater precision and has now been assigned to the Recreation unit.
After Asher’s assignment, the ceremony returns to its normal routines. Although there is time for light-hearted reminiscences, as with Asher, the ceremony is indisputably important because at the end of it, all of the Twelves will be adults. They may be untrained, but they are adults nevertheless. This is why the Chief of the Elders thanks each Twelve for their childhood. In spite of the solemnity of the occasion, the Chief of the Elders seems to make a mistake—one that greatly concerns Jonas. She skips him, calling 18 and then 20. Everyone notices the mistake, but no one comments. Jonas and his family are left feeling disgraced and embarrassed. They all wonder what Jonas has done wrong.