The Giver

Question from Chapter 7

Chapter 7:How does the Committee decide on Assignments?

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The Assignment process and Ceremony of Twelve is unique because, as the Chief Elder notes, it is one of the few times of the year in which individual differences are celebrated instead of communal values. Even this society thus acknowledges the need for a division of labor. Each child is thanked for his particular childhood, and Assignments are made that honor the differences of those such as Asher, who usually tends to get in trouble for failing to conform to community standards. Although the community values what is the same over what is different, the Ceremony of Twelve acknowledges that all people are not identical.

Despite the acknowledgement of differences that is represented by the Ceremony of Twelve, the Elevens are officially called to the stage by their number of birth in that year, which removes some of the personal identity of the participants. As Jonas notes, there are currently two Eleven-Nineteens, Jonas and Harriet, so for a brief time even his number is not unique to him. The Chief Elder speaks of the personal qualities of each individual, but the structure of the Ceremony and this use of names serve as reminders that each person is primarily just one number among many in the community.

Asher fortunately receives a good and apt Assignment, that of Assistant Director of Recreation, but the Chief Elder's account of the three-year-old Asher nonetheless reminds us that the community often harshly enforces standardization of things such as language. The young Asher had confused the words "snack" and "smack," leading to a smack from the discipline wand to teach him a lesson. However, the intended lesson only served to discourage Asher, who could not fix his words and who for a while stopped talking entirely. Asher eventually learned his lesson, but the incident shows the severity of the society's system for punishing those who do not conform exactly to the standard.