What is the ending of The Giver?

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The ending of The Giver is left intentionally ambiguous by the author. There are two main interpretations. The first is that Jonas and Gabriel die, as the text clearly depicts their physical deterioration and the possibility of an afterlife in "Elsewhere." The second interpretation is that "Elsewhere" is a real place, indicated by the waiting sled, the sounds of music, and the sight of lights. The author encourages readers to form their own conclusions, and companion books may provide further insight.

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The author doesn't tell us what the real ending of the story is.  It is possible that when Lowry wrote The Giver, she had a sequel in mind.  Leaving the ending of this book ambiguous would encourage readers to purchase the sequel.  You can read Gathering Blue and Messenger, which were written as companion books to The Giver and will give you more information.

Going on just what the book says, there are two conclusions you could reach.

First, Jonas and Gabriel die.  The book makes it clear that they are slowly freezing to death.  They are weak, hungry and tired.  The book also says that Jonas uses his last little bit of strength to find the sled waiting for him at the top of the hill.  They sled down the hill to "Elsewhere", perhaps an afterlife of some kind that follows death.  This could be why Jonas heard music as he slowly slipped down the hill.  In addition, the Giver was transmitting memories to Jonas before he died, giving the idea that if the Giver died before they were transmitted, they would be lost forever or else freed and allowed to enter the minds of the people.  Jonas, now, being the new keeper of the memories, would release those memories when he died.  This could be why he also heard singing behind him - as he slipped away, his friends and family received the memories he had carried and were freed from the austere existence they had experienced.

Second, Jonas and Gabriel find "Elsewhere", an unexplained real and literal place.  This is supported by the fact that there is a sled waiting for them, apparently placed there by people who are hoping he will find it and use it.  It would only stand to reason that if they placed it there for Jonas, they would be waiting for him at the bottom of the hill.  This is confirmed near the end of the chapter when it says that he knew they were waiting for him and the baby.  The book also supports this idea because he heard music and saw lights and warmth coming from Elsewhere, indicating that there is life and emotion there.  There is also the possibility that his leaving freed the residents of his home town and enabled them to have memory, which is why he heard them singing behind him.

I would suggest that the author wanted you to come to your own conclusions, so she intentionally left it very ambiguous.  Reading the two companion books mentioned above would help if you simply can't stand ambiguous endings (like me!).  

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If you just go by the information provided in The Giver, there is a lot of ambiguity.

As he approached the summit of the hill at last, something began to
happen. He was not warmer; if anything, he felt more numb and more cold. He was not less exhausted; on the contrary, his steps were leaden, and he could barely move his freezing, tired legs. But he began, suddenly, to feel happy. He began to recall happy times. He remembered his parents and his sister. He remembered his friends, Asher and Fiona. He remembered The Giver.

By the end of the book, Jonas and Gabriel are not in a good place. They're starving, and all the time spent walking in bad, ever-worsening weather has left them in great danger of freezing to death. The above quote is a bit strange, then, in the way it sums up how awful Jonas' physical condition is, yet follows it up with how Jonas suddenly begins to feel happy for no reason and thinks about happy times and good people. You could either interpret this as being Jonas' last effort to push himself forward, his mind casting about for anything that will give him the strength to journey on. However, you could also easily see this as the point at which Jonas loses his grip on reality as his body begins to shut down for good. As he dies, his mind latches on to the things in life he loved most. Whichever way you choose to see it, the text doesn't give any confirmation as to which one is the right interpretation.

Using his final strength, and a special knowledge that was deep inside him, Jonas found the sled that was waiting for them at the top of the hill. Numbly his hands fumbled for the rope. He settled himself on the sled and hugged Gabe close. The hill was steep but the snow was powdery and soft, and he knew that this time there would be no ice, no fall, no pain. Inside his freezing body, his heart surged with hope.

Here's another weird element. Why would a sled just be sitting on top of a hill, waiting for someone who would be insane enough to make the journey Jonas and Gabriel decide to make? Of course, it is possible that the sled is real. Maybe the people in the happier place Jonas is trying to find put it there because they hope others will be brave enough to try to find them. On the other hand, it seems far too in keeping with the memory Jonas possesses about the sled and the hill. This could just be Jonas' mind playing tricks on him, making him hallucinate in his starved, frozen condition. Once again, the text itself gives us no confirmation as to which is the case.

He forced his eyes open as they went downward, downward, sliding, and all at once he could see lights, and he recognized them now. He knew they were shining through the windows of rooms, that they were the red, blue, and yellow lights that twinkled from trees in places where families created and kept memories, where they celebrated love. Downward, downward, faster and faster. Suddenly he was aware with certainty and joy that below, ahead, they were waiting for him; and that they were waiting, too, for the baby. For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo.

Now is the time you as a reader must decide whether to be optimistic about Jonas and Gabriel's position. The sled seemed like it could be pulled straight from Jonas' mind, and this parallel between what he is describing and what is already in his mind continues in the passage above. The Christmas trees with their pretty lights, the loving families, and the joyous singing are all things Jonas has experienced while receiving memories from the Giver. Is it a simple coincidence that this real, warm and loving salvation Jonas has found so closely resembles the images he has clung to in his mind? Perhaps Jonas, aware that he is dying and has failed to save Gabriel, is given a merciful last thought of the love and joy he so lacked in his life back at home. And, in the final lines where he believes he hears singing coming from that very home, he could either be hearing the real singing of a society that has finally awoken to joy or be desperately imagining it so that he can be happy in the knowledge that at least that part of the plan worked.

The catch to all of this, of course, is that you can't really know the final fate of Jonas and Gabriel based on the actual text. It's left up to you! Now, if you want outside help in determining what happened to them, I would recommend reading the companion books Gathering Blue and The Messenger, in particular. There are references that provide more information about the ending of The Giver.

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Ambiguity is the name of the game here - whilst I agree that the novel ends in a way that obviously is set up for a sequel, I think part of the mastery of its ending lies in the fact that we do not know and we are deliberately left with at least two possible endings - they die or they reach Elsewhere and live. I guess it depends a lot on how we interpret the novel as a whole and the kind of tone it strikes.

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I first learned of The Giver in 1994 and read it and began teaching it the same year.  I was always convinced they died because the music seemed to be coming from the place he had come from- where music had not been before.  Also notice that the first time and only time in the book, Gabriel is referred to as "the baby" in the next to last paragraph of the book--all this led me to believe that Gabriel and Jonas were dead.

But they were not.

Gathering Blue (2000) certainly hinted strongly that Jonas was not dead and Messenger (2004) made it abundantly clear that they lived.

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Some people believe that Jonas and Gabe die, that the lights and music at the end are only memories, or hallucinations as they freeze to death. Others believe that Jonas and Gabe have found communities who live in the old way, with music and color and joy, as well as pain and suffering. I choose to believe that they reach another community of people who live life as it is in Jonas' memories from the Giver. 

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There is a great discussion board question about this, too - you should check that out.  I'm including it as the second link here.

When Jonas leaves the community, we only know a little bit of what happens to him.  We know that he and Gabe escape, riding on Jonas's father's bicycle.  They have to travel mostly at night at first, to avoid being found by the community.  Sometimes, the heat-seeking airplanes come looking for them, and Jonas has to transfer memories of cold to Gabe so the two of them can lower their body temperature and remain undetected by the aircraft.  Their journey is long and difficult; they have little food and energy, and they don't know where they are going.  Jonas pushes along, motivated by his desire to save Gabe from releasing and to bring change to his community. 

During the journey, they encounter new things, like wildlife.  They have never seen birds until this time; they have never caught a fish.  So they have all sorts of experiences along the way to prepare them for life outside the community.  At the end of the book, when Jonas is almost out of motivation and hope, he finds a sled in the snow, at the top of a hill.  When he and Gabe climb onto the sled, we are left with no resolution; we don't know what happens after that.  We can only guess that they make it to a new community and find a new life, or whatever we want their ending to be.  I did read for sure that Lowry never intended us to believe that they died; in her mind, Jonas and Gabe live on after the story.  It's up to the reader to decide how they do it.

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When I read it, I honestly thought they were dying.  I thought the whole idea of there being a sled was just too convenient and odd, so I honestly thought he had imagined it and they were dying.  Then I read the interview with Lois Lowry in the back of the book, where she said she intentionally left the ending vague because she wanted people to be able to envision their own future for Jonas and Gabe, but that she definitely did NOT think that the two boys died.

So, if I'm being optimistic, I'd say they find a nice family to take them in, and somehow the society they find in Elsewhere doesn't have the same constraints as the community they came from, so they are able to grow up with actual feelings and family, etc., to envision a brighter future.  Maybe eventually they'll even go back to their community to see if things have changed, or to help create those changes.

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When I taught The Giver, some of my students were very upset by this open-ended conclusion.  Two girls who worked together on a project about the book decided to go to the source and contacted Lois Lowry to ask her opinion about the ending.  As we might expect, Lowry told my students that she intentionally left the ending cryptic because she wanted readers to be able to interpret it as they did.  A friend and I discussed it and decided that we, too (like the poster above), wanted to believe that Jonas and Gabriel had reached "Elsewhere," but the book leads us to believe that "Elsewhere" means death.  So are they dead?  Are they in an afterlife?  Or are they saved?  I don't mind uncertainty in conclusions, but it IS interesting to hear that there are sequels to the book.  I'd love to hear from those who have read the sequels, in part because one person I know even disputed that these are actually "sequels" in the usual sense--just different books that deal with the same characters and concepts.  I am eager to read more in this thread.  

My students' project was amazing, by the way, and I admired their initiative in contacted Lowry.  

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I have always thought the most reasonable explanation for the ending was that Jonas and Gabriel were dying. I've also read Lois Lowry's own words that she did not intend the ending to be taken that way. The memories that Jonas accesses about winter and Christmas are supposed to be very old. On the other hand, a plane flies overhead at one point. When it comes right down to it, I think she very artfully created a book that lent itself to many interpretations, and all could be backed up with examples from the book.

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You need to read the third book in the series: "The Messenger." Jonas and Gabriel, from "The Giver," and Matty, from "Gathering Blue," are the main characters in this book.

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So you don't think that they died, then. When I first read the book I thought they had made it to Elsewhere (maybe it was just me wanting a happy ending) but later in discussion with others, my eyes were opened up to the other possibilities. I wonder if there was a planned sequel? It is such a popular book that I would wonder why Lowry didn't write it. Instead she went on to write "Gathering Blue," which follows a very similar formula but doesn't have quite the same impact in my eyes.

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Honestly, I think the ending of The Giver sets us up to expect a sequel. I suspect that the original manuscript or book proposal was for a much longer book than what ended up in print and that the publisher decided to break create a series in order to generate more profit. I hate to sound cynical, but having worked in the publishing industry for many years, I know that bringing in revenue is more important than contributing to great literature.

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This question has been answered.  Please see the links below:

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As you said, the ending of The Giver is very ambiguous, allowing for the reader to make his or her own interpretation of what happens in the end. As Jonas and Gabriel make it to the bottom of the hill they hear singing, and see warmly lit homes that they know are filled with love and memories. The question and the ambiguity come into question when the reader realizes the peril of the situation the two boys were in--tired, hungry, and freezing. Did they survive to make it to the other side of Sameness; if so the ending was a happy one. If not, then they are delusional and freezing to death, in which case the ending is very sad and heartbreaking. You actually have two possible endings one thoroughly optimistic and one completely pessimistic; however, in my opinion, there is another way to view it. Jonas and Gabriel's end is happy to a certain extent either way because they have reached a happiness that neither has ever known before. In the end, they both know love, peace and happiness.

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The optimistic part of me wants to believe that Jonas has managed to get Gabriel to a new town, where people's attitudes toward individualism and free-thinking is not so rigid as in the society they left.  I want to believe that the lights Jonas sees are in welcoming homes, filled with truly nurturing people who will take them in and care for them.

Somehow, though, it also seems probable that Jonas has died trying to get Gabriel to safety, thus leading to Gabriel's death.  If that is the case, then the welcoming lights and music he hears would be indicative of heaven or some kind of gentle, good afterlife.

It doesn't really matter, though.  The images of light and warmth, of music and happiness, tell us that Jonas and Gabriel are in a better place than the one they left.

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The ending of The Giver is very ambiguous, allowing for the reader to make his or her own interpretation of what happens in the end. As Jonas and Gabriel make it to the bottom of the hill they hear singing, and see warmly lit homes that they know are filled with love and memories. The question and the ambiguity come into question when the reader realizes the peril of the situation the two boys were in--tired, hungry, and freezing. Did they survive to make it to the other side of Sameness; if so the ending was a happy one. If not, then they are delusional and freezing to death, in which case the ending is very sad and heartbreaking. You actually have two possible endings one thoroughly optimistic and one completely pessimistic; however, in my opinion, there is another way to view it. Jonas and Gabriel's end is happy to a certain extent either way because they have reached a happiness that neither has ever known before. In the end, they both know love, peace and happiness.

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That's an interesting question, and one I think can only be answered by the individual reader. Lois Lowry most likely left the ending ambiguous so that the reader might decide for himself what were the fates of Jonas and Gabriel. I have always felt that they did die at the end of the book. In order to feel like the book was complete, for me to get a sense of closure, I needed to imagine an ending that made sense to me. According to the enotes entry, "The novel's ending is ambiguous, but circular. Reunited with memories of light, snow, and sleds that the Giver gave him, reunited with memories of music, peace, joy, and freedom of choice that he found within himself, Jonas, along with Gabriel and the community that he left behind, has finally arrived in a better, more wholesome, place."

I agree with everything they say, however, I feel like the ending is more final than Jonas merely finding a better place. I feel that since the world from which Jonas came was so horrific and unforgiving that the only escape possible (that made sense to me) was death. It seemed to me that Jonas and Gabriel would only find escape, and perhaps a better place, in death.

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What do you think happened at the end of The Giver?

I think that the ending of The Giver is simply brilliant.  The author gets us hooked on this story and attached to the characters, and then gives us an ambiguous ending!  I think that the ending allows us to make our own story for Jonas and Gabe.  I would hate to think that they died, although much of the evidence seems to point that way.  Yet even if they died, the book raises the question of an afterlife.  Many people in our world believe in Heaven, so they believe in an afterlife.  It would be sad if Elsewhere was not a real place, but really an afterlife, but it would also be kind of uplifting too.  It would mean that all of the people who died on the altar of sameness did not cease to exist, but really did go to a better place.

Elsewhere is not really described in detail in the book, but there are many hints that it is a positive place.  After all, the memories stored in Jonas and The Giver came from somewhere, and are being kept alive somehow.  From the ending, it seems that Elsewhere is a happy and positive place, whether or not it is a real place or an afterlife.

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What do you think happened at the end of The Giver?

This is a question that has been discussed on this board before. You may want to read previous discussions like this one:

 http://www.enotes.com/giver/group/discuss/what-happend-end-giver-when-jonas-left-commun-49467

The ending is debatable, and really depends on how you read into it. I like to think that Jonas and Gabe reached Elsewhere, a place that is more like the world we know, with colors and music and emotions. However, the other way of reading the ending is to see it as Jonas' hallucinations as Jonas and Gabe die, or the last memories from the Giver that Jonas has, leaving as he passes away. According to Lois Lowry though, she once said that when she wrote it she thought that they made it to a happy place, and that it was an optimistic ending, where Jonas and Gabe completed their journey. Here's a link to her take on the discussion: 

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/guides/give.html

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What do you think happened at the end of The Giver?

I have to agree with bullgatortail - I think the ending is left deliberately ambiguous so we as a reader have to try and piece together what happens from our knowledge of the rest of the novel and its tone. How we respond to the novel overall will greatly determine our "take" on the ending - happy or sad. I guess if we feel that the overwhelming tone of the novel is pessimistic, then we will tend towards a sad ending, whereas if we feel that there is a note of optimism, and that Jonas' act of rebellion is likely to succeed, then we will believe they do reach Elsewhere.

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What do you think happened at the end of The Giver?

The first time I read the novel, I assumed that Jonas and Gabe had succeeded in finding a new life in Elsewhere, and that they would survive the cold. However, the ending is deliberately left for the reader to decide for themselves. I actually prefer the unknown factor. 

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What do you think happened at the end of The Giver?

This depends on which day it is -- what I happen to be thinking.

There are two possibilities.

First, he and Gabe might have made it to Elsewhere.  The two of them might have gone down the hill and found that there really was a whole village of people just waiting to take them in and give them a new home.

But, on the other hand, it could be that Jonas is just hallucinating.  In this scenario, he is dying of cold and just dredges up this idea out of his memory.  It is just an illusion and they are soon to be dead.

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What is the climax of the book The Giver?

As the Receiver, Jonas has access to memories that are shared with him by the Giver. Jonas is also allowed to follow a different set of rules than other community members. For example, children are not allowed to witness the "release" of a new child. Jonas is an exception to this rule. However, since the release of a new child by Jonas' father already took place earlier that morning, the Giver explains to Jonas that he can watch a recording of the release.

Jonas knows his father to be a gentle man, and he hears the "gentle voice" that his father uses with the baby. He watches as his father prepares a syringe. Jonas remembers that babies receive shots, so while he is worried that the baby will experience some discomfort, he isn't especially alarmed. However, he notices that his father inserts the needle in the soft spot on the baby's head. As Jonas watches, the baby becomes limp and dies.

The climax of The Giver occurs as Jonas becomes aware that his father has killed the baby, leading him to begin a new course of action. It is painful for Jonas to realize that his father has been lying about what happens during the release of a new child. Feeling a "ripping sensation inside himself," Jonas and the Giver make a plan.

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What is the ending of Lois Lowry's The Giver?

The ending of Lois Lowry's The Giver is debatable. Jonas is fleeing his home with his baby brother Gabriel in an effort to end Sameness. Once he gets to Elsewhere, or gets far enough away from his community, the memories that the Giver passed on to him will be released upon the citizens and Sameness will end. The Giver stays behind so he can help the people deal with the memories when Jonas crosses into Elsewhere. However, whether or not Jonas actually makes it safely to Elsewhere is ambiguous. As Jonas feels that he and Gabe are nearing the end of their journey, they run out of food and water and encounter deep snow. Jonas had been giving Gabe memories to satisfy his needs for a time, but he soon feels like he is running out of memories to give. The bike gets stuck in the snow and Jonas continues through the snow with Gabe. At one point, Jonas feels as if the memories are leaving him, suggesting that they are going back to the community.

"The memories had fallen behind him now, escaping from his protection to return to the people of his community. Were there any left at all?" (176).

This passage suggests that the memories have gone to the community and Jonas has no more to share with Gabriel to sustain him. Jonas keeps climbing a snowy hill and loses feeling in his extremities. Things seem hopeless, but then he remembers his friends and the Giver, and that motivates him to keep going. When he gets to the summit he finds a sled waiting for him. One could argue that Jonas's consciousness has simply fallen back to the first and final memory, and after that, he's done for. The text even says that "Jonas felt himself losing consciousness" before sliding down the hill. Jonas then feels joy, hears music, and thinks he hears people singing, but then the book ends with "But perhaps it was only an echo" (180). There is no explicit information that says Jonas and Gabe make it safely to a house that has a family in it. Furthermore, why would a sled be waiting for him at some random hill? It seems too much like the memory to be reality.

Others may say, however, that the memory of the sled, snow, and family in the house is a real memory; therefore, Jonas and Gabriel are truly saved and they find a real home in the end. Many readers like to believe this option is how the book ends because it is positive and Jonas and Gabriel aren't left out in the snow to die. The movie goes even further to perpetuate this belief by showing the community receiving the memories of joy, crying, and understanding life better; but the book seems to leave the end up to the reader to interpret for himself.

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What happens to Jonas and Gabe at the end of The Giver?

Lois Lowry deliberately creates an ambivalent and confusing ending to The Giver. Jonas and his baby brother, Gabe, successfully make their escape from the community, and they appear to arrive at a hill over which is the Elsewhere that Jonah seeks. They climb to the top of the hill, and the weakened Jonas tucks Gabe onto a sled, and they soar downhill. At the end, Jonas thinks that he hears music and singing--both ahead of him and behind him, from where he had just come. Do Jonas and Gabe arrive alive at the Elsewhere at the bottom of the hill? Or are the colorful lights and singing voices representative of unconciousness or death and the ascent into heaven? It's up for the reader to decide, but the important fact is that the two boys have escaped the ordered society from which they came. In any case, they have reached a better place.

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What happens at the end of The Giver? Any proof?

I am guessing that you wonder whether Jonas and Gabriel live or die at the end of the story. There is support for either interpretation, but the author has said,

I am surprised when some people tell me they think the boy and the baby die.  I don't think they die (Lowry, 6, in "Conversation with Lois Lowry," which can be found at the end of some editions of The Giver).

The very last section of the book speaks of Jonas on the sled, afraid he is losing consciousness as he and Gabe start down the hill.  He sees what appear to be Christmas lights through the windows of houses below, where families "celebrated love" (178). He believes that the people below are waiting for him and Gabe and hears people singing. 

This suggests that either Jonas and Gabe are approaching a real town where they will be taken in and loved, or that Jonas and Gabe, who are in deplorable physical condition, are about to die and Jonas is seeing a glimpse of heaven,  where he and  Gabe will find light, warmth, music, and love. 

Since the author has already said that the children do not die, the second interpretation, as it exists only in the story, has some basis in the text, but is not supported because the author has told us so. 

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What happens at the end of The Giver? Any proof?

We know for sure that Jonas and Gabe leave the community at the end of the book.  Jonas finds the sled that was in the memory that The Giver gave him.  He uses it to sled down the hill toward the village.

We know this stuff.  What I'm not sure of is what kind of speculation you are looking for.

We can assume, for example, that as Jonas leaves, all of the memories The Giver gave him will be released back into the community.  We know this because when Rosemary was released all of her memories were released and people felt them.

Feel free to clarify...

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How does the story end in The Giver?

The story ends ambiguously in The Giver.  Jonas runs away from the community, and either escapes or dies in the snow.

When Jonas learns the truth about his community, he is angry.  He thought that everything was perfect.  Sameness protected people from pain. There were no choices, and no emotions, so things were good.

It turned out that Sameness covered up a lot of abuses.  In order to prevent uneasiness, discomfort, or any negative emotions, the people took drastic steps.  These included killing people who had broken three laws, and killing one baby when identical twins were born.

When Jonas watches a video of a newborn’s release, he goes crazy with grief and guilt.  He calms down and he and The Giver plan for him to escape, thereby releasing the memories to the people.

The ending is not clear.  Jonas goes through rougher and rougher terrain.

Jonas felt more and more certain that the destination lay ahead of him, very near now in the night that was approaching.  None of his senses confirmed it. (ch 23, p. 175)

Jonas begins to sense things from another dimension, or as if in a dream.  Since this is a science fiction book, it is possible.  Lowry leaves it up to the reader to decide whether Jonas survives and escapes, or dies.

Some readers may prefer to know for sure.  Since there are sequels in which Jonas is clearly alive, it seems possible to rewrite this ending with Jonas escaping, where the reader knows he is alive. 

Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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What is the climax in The Giver?

The climax is the part of the story where the action or conflict reaches the highest, or most exciting, point. In The Giver, many small events and revelations lead up to Jonas' decision to leave the society. The incident that finally pushes Jonas to leave is when he finds out that when the nurturers, like his father, release a child, they are actually killing them. Jonas witnesses his father inserting a syringe in to the soft spot on a new baby's head and sees the baby becoming limp. Jonas has always thought of his dad as a kind and nurturing person, but seeing that his father has been lying about what happens to babies who are twins, have blue colored eyes, or special needs causes him to reject his society.

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At the end of The Giver, what happens to Jonas in the last few lines of the story?

The end of the novel is very interesting as it is quite unclear what happens to Jonas and Gabriel at the end. Do they die? Is he hallucinating? However, it appears clear from the tone of the passage that this novel ends on an optimistic note, although it is very ambiguous. Having used the last of his energy to climb the hill, Jonas and Gabriel get on a sledge and shoot off down the hill, where he sees a village full of light, a village that Jonas instinctively knows that create and keep memories and celebrate love. Jonas then has a certainty that the people in the village he can see below are waiting for him and Gabriel and he hears singing which he has never heard before. He also hears music from behind him, though he is unsure of this. In this interesting ending it is possible to read the final lines as a hopeful new start for the Community that Jonas has left. Having left, the memories will return to the Community, giving them the opportunity to be more human and feel emotions and remember. Also, Jonas experiences emotions such as joy and is able to hear singing, that he has never heard before. If this village Jonas sees does not exist and it is just something out of his imagination, it is suggested that he has created it in his old home through leaving and giving his memories to them. The book ends with the impression of a society that is moving forward whilst looking back.

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