What happens in The Giver?

Jonas lives in a seemingly utopian society where conformity equates to happiness. At the Ceremony of Twelve, where all twelve-year-old children receive their lifelong job assignments, Jonas is surprised to learn that he has been chosen to be the new Receiver of Memory.

  • The elderly Receiver of Memory acts as a reservoir for all the community's memories of the past and Elsewhere, the rest of the world. The Receiver asks Jonas to call him the Giver, then begins transferring his memories to Jonas, showing him snow, love, pain, and color.
  • One day, Jonas asks what "release" means in the context of their society. The Giver shows Jonas a baby being euthanized by Jonas' own father, a Nurturer who cares for infants before they're either assigned to a family or euthanized. Jonas' father takes in a baby, Gabriel, in the hopes of preventing his "release."
  • Fueled by his knowledge of the euthanizations, Jonas escapes into Elsewhere with Gabriel, aware that once he leaves all his memories will be returned to the people. Jonas and Gabriel brave the cold as they cross the border. The novel ends when Jonas sees a warmly lit house with a Christmas tree.

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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.

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...

(The entire section is 917 words.)