The Giver Summary and Analysis
by Lois Lowry
The next morning, Jonas is unwilling to either lie or tell the truth about the content of his dreams, so he merely tells his parents that he slept very soundly. This claim is true in that he did not hear Gabriel fretting last night, but he did dream about the snow-covered hill and about his desire to find whatever was welcoming him beyond the end of the hill, although in his dream he did not know how to get there. Instead of dwelling on the dream, he goes to school, where the other Twelves excitedly discuss their training. Jonas cannot join in but is acutely aware that despite all their training in the precision of language, he does not have the words to describe sunshine or snow.
After school, he rides with Fiona to the House of the Old, and she admonishes him for not riding home with her last night. He explains that the training lasted longer than he expected, but he does not explain details, and she cannot ask because that would be rude. Instead, he asks about her training with the Old until they part. As he watches her enter the building, he realizes that Fiona's hair changed in a similar way as the apple and the crowd in the Auditorium, and that this occurrence is happening more frequently, so he later asks The Giver about it. The Giver asks him if he saw anything in the previous memories, but Jonas tells him that he was not able to see anything through the snow. The Giver says that seeing beyond happened a little differently for him than it is happening for Jonas, and he asks Jonas to test something.
Instead of transferring a memory, The Giver asks him to recall the beginning of the memory with the sled as if it were one of his own memories and to look down at the sled. When Jonas does so, he realizes that the sled has the same mysterious quality as the apple and Fiona's hair, albeit in a more permanent manner. The Giver then points to the top row of books in the Annex, and Jonas confirms that the books also briefly change. The Giver tells him that he is beginning to see the color red and that long ago everything had a color; one of the colors was red. The apple and Fiona's hair are both particularly red, and the faces of the crowd have red tones, although flesh used to be many different colors. The genetic scientists are trying to eradicate things such as Fiona's red hair, but Sameness is still not entirely complete.
The sled was permanently red because it came from before Sameness, and The Giver says that he can see all the other colors as well, as will Jonas, who will gain wisdom as well as colors and other things. People decided long ago to end differences and convert to Sameness, which gave them control of many things but caused them to lose control of others. Jonas protests this development immediately, whereas The Giver took many years to come to the same conclusion. Jonas asks how The Giver first experienced seeing beyond, but The Giver promises to tell him later and decides for the moment to give him the memory of a rainbow.
Jonas begins to see colors everywhere, albeit only fleetingly, and he decries the lack of color, wishing for the ability to choose what clothing he wears rather than having multiples of the same. He brings up the example of Gabriel, who would be able to choose objects if they were different rather than the same. Playing devil's advocate, The Giver points out the danger of wrong choices, and Jonas agrees that people cannot be allowed to make wrong choices in things such as jobs and mates, but he remains frustrated. He has tried to make friends such as Asher see color, but they remain satisfied with their lives without the vibrancy of color, which makes Jonas irrationally angry.
One day, The Giver gives Jonas the disturbing memory of several men killing an elephant with guns and of the anguished mourning of another elephant that found the first animal's corpse. After he returns home, feeling weighted with his knowledge, he tries to tell Lily about live elephants that resembled her comfort object, but she does not believe him and wriggles away from his subtle attempt to transmit the memory of the elephant to her.
Jonas asks The Giver why he has no spouse, and The Giver responds that he did, but his spouse now lives with the Childless Adults since they no longer need to form a family unit. However, spousal arrangements are slightly different in this case since other citizens are forbidden from reading books, and The Giver's library will eventually belong to Jonas, although he has been too busy to read the books thus far. In addition, he cannot tell his spouse about his work and will have a new set of rules as the official Receiver. The memories are his life, although he occasionally counsels the Committee of Elders if they are faced with something new. The Giver would like to advise them more, but they want nothing but predictable order. However, they still need The Receiver, as they remembered ten years ago when the training of his successor failed.
Jonas asks about the previous girl's failure, and The Giver explains that her memories were scattered into the community, which led to chaos as everyone suddenly began to remember pain. The power of the memories subsided, but people were reminded of the Receiver's role in suffering for the sake of the community. Jonas begins to talk about brains and electrical impulses in relation to memories, but The Giver bitterly says that although the science instructors know these things, they are meaningless without memories and that The Receiver bears their burden.
Some days the burden is too great for The Giver to train Jonas, so Jonas wanders around, testing his memories. He wonders if hills still exist beyond the bridge at the entrance of the community, and one day he asks The Giver to give him a bit of what causes The Giver to suffer beyond small things such as sunburn. The Giver agrees to stop shielding Jonas and proceeds to give him a new memory.
The exact nature of Jonas's Capacity to See Beyond is finally revealed in Chapter 12 as the ability to see color, which is a capacity that most of the community has apparently lost by means of an earlier choice. Because of Jonas's discovery of colors such as red, he and The Giver bring the debate about Sameness to the forefront of the novel. Jonas knows instinctively that Sameness is wrong, just as he knew that to suppress the Stirrings was wrong, and he brings up the problem to The Giver repeatedly. The Giver in turn understands Jonas's concerns and notes that ending differences helped people in many ways but also caused them to lose something intangible but significant.
Despite Jonas's newfound dislike of Sameness, a session in which The Giver plays devil's advocate shows that society's values have been deeply ingrained in Jonas from years of conditioning. A few simple comments nearly derail Jonas into believing the opposite argument and pointing out that the danger of wrong choices is too substantial to allow major deviation. Readers in free countries generally disagree with Jonas here because we are accustomed to choosing our own jobs and spouses, and even Jonas does not entirely accept his own argument. Consequently, the emerging conflict in the novel is partly internal in Jonas's mind, but it is mostly that of man versus society, as Jonas comes to disagree with his community's values.
Jonas tries to bring back some of the joy of memories such as rainbows to his friends such as Asher, who are now in training to become working adult members of society. Unfortunately, he finds that they are unreceptive to his attempts, and the anger he feels at their inability to see past the satisfaction of their colorless, plain existence becomes the seed for his anger at the larger community and its values. In addition, after having seen the majesty of an elephant, his attempt to explain to his younger sister that elephants were once real indicates his burgeoning consciousness that being able to see and remember a real elephant is even worth the experience of the elephant's death, as horrible as it is.
The second main theme of Chapters 12 and 13 is that of Jonas's increasing loneliness as the new Receiver. Not only does he feel increasingly alienated from his oblivious family and friends, but he also learns from The Giver that even if he has a spouse, he will be forced to keep part of his life separate from his family unit. Instead, The Giver and Jonas's new memories become his main companions, and the fact that Jonas cannot transfer memories to anyone whom he wishes further forces him into an involuntary isolation. Even those who supposedly listen to his advice, the Committee of Elders, do not turn to The Receiver for help except under special circumstances.
As more is revealed about the failure of the previous Receiver-in-Training, Jonas learns that ten years ago the community had an opportunity to regain their memories, but that they again forced away those memories and reinforced their desire for The Receiver to remain a martyr for the community. The Giver clearly suffers the burden of this choice, which is ironic since the community has essentially chosen to abandon the values of equality and sharing with respect to him, foisting all of their troubles and pain onto a single individual. By asking to take some of The Giver's memories of real pain, Jonas volunteers to share the pain, knowing instinctively that more than one person must shoulder the burden for it to be bearable.
The Giver Essays and Related Content
- The Giver: Major Themes
- The Giver: Questions
- The Giver: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Lois Lowry: Biography
- The Giver Summary
- About The Giver
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-2
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 3-4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-8
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-11
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 12-13
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-17
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 18-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-23
- Utopia and Dystopia in Literary and Historical Context
- Related Links on The Giver
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
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- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
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