The Giver Summary

The Giver is a novel by Lois Lowry in which a boy named Jonas learns the dark secrets of his seemingly utopian society.

  • When he turns twelve, Jonas is chosen to be the new Receiver of Memory.
  • The former Receiver of Memory becomes the Giver, transferring memories of the past and the rest of the world to Jonas.
  • The Giver shows Jonas a baby being euthanized by Jonas’s father. Jonas’s father takes in a baby, Gabriel, hoping to prevent his euthanization.
  • Jonas escapes the community with Gabriel, aware that once he leaves, all his memories will be returned to the people.

Summary

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Last Updated on June 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 917

Introduction

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a science fiction novel first published in 1993. When Jonas, the protagonist, receives his assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, he discovers that his idyllic community is not what it seems. He is forced to decide whether he will let the community continue on its traditional path or confront it with its own choices.

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Plot Summary

After dinner, Jonas and his family tell each other about their feelings. Jonas shares that he is apprehensive about the Ceremony of Twelve, because he is unsure what his assignment will be. Father reassures Jonas that the Elders make good assignments because they have been observing the children throughout their childhoods, especially during their Eleventh year. Father is worried about a new child, Gabriel, who is not developing as quickly as the other children. Having convinced the other Nurturers that Gabriel might catch up if he is raised in the environment of a family unit, Father brings Gabriel home.

For his last few volunteer hours, Jonas looks for his best friend, Asher, and finds Asher’s bike at the House of the Old, along with the bike of their groupmate Fiona. Jonas bathes Larissa, who tells him about the Ceremony of Release for Roberto that morning and how happy Roberto looked when he entered the Releasing Room. The next morning, Jonas’s family discuss their dreams. Jonas’s dream confuses him; in it, he wants to give Fiona a bath, and his mother explains to him what the Stirrings are and gives him a daily pill to get rid of them.

The Ceremony of Twelve takes two days. Father requests that Gabriel be labeled Uncertain and given an additional year at the Nurturing Center, along with spending nights with Jonas’s family unit. At the Ceremony of Twelve, the children receive their assignments in their birth order, but Jonas gets skipped. When the Chief Elder calls Jonas to the stage, his assignment is Receiver, an honorable assignment requiring intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and the “capacity to see beyond.” A few years earlier the Elders had selected a Receiver who failed. In Jonas’s folder detailing his assignment, he receives very few instructions but is told that he may now lie. He wonders if the other Twelves received the same instructions and if all adults are able to lie.

At his first day of training, the current Receiver tells Jonas that he is going to receive all the memories of the world. He transmits the memories to Jonas by placing his hands on Jonas’s bare back. Jonas’s first memory is of sledding downhill in the snow. Jonas learns that when the community opted for Sameness, things like snow and hills were eliminated. When Jonas asks what he should call the old man, he says to call him the Giver.

Jonas is not allowed to talk about his training with others. When he tells the Giver that Fiona’s hair changed, the Giver explains that Jonas is starting to see colors. Jonas asks about the previous Receiver. When she applied for Elsewhere, all the memories she had received entered the consciousness of the community, who did not know how to handle the influx of memories, some of which were painful. After this, each day of Jonas’s training involves new revelations of pain, such as starvation and warfare. At home, Jonas offers to watch Gabriel. When Gabriel starts to fret, Jonas transmits a soothing memory to him, and Gabriel sleeps peacefully.

Jonas learns about love through a Christmas memory and asks his parents if they love him. They chastise him for being imprecise with his language. During an unscheduled holiday, Jonas is excited to play with his friends, but he is horrified to find that the game they are playing is pretend war. He ruins the game and alienates his friends.

Jonas asks the Giver about what happens after Release. He learns that the previous Receiver, Rosemary, asked for Release, which is why Jonas is not allowed to apply for Release. The Giver and Jonas watch a recording of Jonas’s father releasing one of a pair of twins. Jonas sees that the baby is euthanized, and he realizes that Release is death. Jonas gets very upset and stays the night with the Giver. They plan Jonas’s escape from the community, who will have to deal with a large number of difficult memories once Jonas leaves. The Giver intends to stay behind to help them cope. They plan for Jonas’s departure to coincide with the December Ceremony in a couple of weeks.

That night, Jonas flees because he learns that Gabriel is going to be Released for not developing properly. Jonas takes Gabriel, steals his father’s bike, and grabs leftover food from the trash collection. He rides out of the community, hiding during the day from search planes and traveling at night. When the planes stop searching, Jonas switches to riding in the daylight. The landscape becomes more difficult and Jonas encounters wildlife for the first time. Jonas begins running out of food. As the days go on and food becomes scarcer, it begins to snow, and Jonas leaves the bike behind. Most of his memories have faded. Holding Gabriel, Jonas climbs a hill and finds a sled at the top. He and Gabriel sled downhill, and they reach a place with buildings and Christmas-like lights. He hears singing for the first time and thinks he hears music from his own community.

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