In The Giver, where do people go when they are "released"?

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In The Giver, being "released" means to die through lethal injection. The community avoids discussing death, using "release" instead. The fate of the physical bodies post-release is largely unexplored, except for a newborn twin whose body is discarded down a trash chute. The novel does not address any spiritual afterlife or the disposal of bodies for the elderly.

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Since "release" is the term that the community uses for lethal injection, we know that the people who are released die. What happens to their physical bodies after death is not discussed in the book, and whether there is an after-life certainly is not. So, physically and spiritually the reader does not have any indication of where these people go after release.

The community in The Giver does not discuss death itself. They never use the word, so these conversations about what happens next do not occur either.

Release is seen differently depending on who experiences it. For example, when an elderly person is released, it is a happy event, a celebration. But, the people at the celebration do not see the actual release. 

A ceremony is held, which includes a "telling of the life," a toast, an anthem, a good-bye speech from the individual to be released (where appropriate), some farewell speeches from those who know him or her, then a walk through the door to the Releasing Room" (

But release can also be a punishment for those who break rules of the community AND newborn children (or those under the age of 1) may be released for a variety of reasons. Gabe is scheduled to be released because he has not progressed as the rate of a normal child. He does not grow fast enough and cannot sleep well unless he is with Jonas. Towards the end of the book, Jonas's father also releases a newborn twin because the community does not allow twins, so the nurturers must weigh and measure the twins when they are born and release the smaller one. 

In the case of the elderly, we do not know where their bodies go after release, as there is never discussion of burial or graveyards or cremation.

For the newborn twin, his body is put into a box and sent down what appears to be a trash chute. No explanation is given as to where the chute empties or what happens to the baby's body.

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What might happen to the people who are released in The Giver?

We come to find out that to be released means to die, so anyone being released is really dying. The community does not use the term "death," however, nor do they talk about dying, even if someone is very sick or very old. 

It takes a while for us to realize this, though. We begin to get an idea that release means death when Jonas is volunteering at the House of the Old and the old woman he is bathing is talking about a release celebration for another one of the elderly people in the nursing home. Although it sounds a bit more like a retirement party than anything else, we get the impression when Roberto is taken through the door to the release room that he is going to meet his death, even though when Jonas asks what happens during the release, the old woman says only the Elders know.

Later, Jonas actually watches a video of a release and sees exactly what it means.

As for what happens to those who are released, if we are being literal about what happens to their bodies, we do not know. The only release we see from beginning to end is for the newborn twin and his body is discarded in what appears to be a trash chute. The other references to release in the novel do not mention where the bodies go following the release.

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