The Giver Summary and Analysis
by Lois Lowry
In the new memory, Jonas is again on a hill, albeit a slightly different one, and this time his ride downhill is on ice and too steep. He loses control of the sled and is thrown into the air. The fall leaves him with an injured face and a broken leg, the pain of which feels like fire. Alone, with no help in sight, he screams and vomits onto the snow before being jerked back into reality. He pleads for a pill or an anesthetic, but The Giver refuses, and Jonas returns home, still feeling the ache of the memory.
The pain is no longer unendurable, so he tries to be brave. Remembering the rules, he does not ask his father for medication, and he does not share his true emotions with his family. The realization that his family has never known pain makes him feel alone, and he dreams of the loneliness he felt in his memory. Nevertheless, the pain of the broken leg is the least of the painful experiences; The Giver imparts to him more memories of the world's suffering. He always leaves Jonas with a happy memory to assuage the suffering.
After experiencing neglect and true hunger in one memory, Jonas asks why they must have these memories, and The Giver answers that it gives them wisdom. For example, one year when the citizens petitioned for more births to increase the population of Laborers, The Giver used his memories to remember the starvation and warfare that resulted from overpopulation, although Jonas does not yet know war. Since the Committee of Elders did not want to know about the pain, he merely advised them against it, and they acquiesced.
The Committee rarely asks The Receiver for help, but when the plane flew over the community a year ago, they asked him if they should shoot the plane down. He did not know the pilot was lost, but he advised them to refrain from shooting because he remembered that when one destroyed others out of fear, one was often destroyed in turn. Jonas will have to bear these memories of destruction, but he wants to know why everyone does not share the memories and make the burden on each individual manageable. The Giver answers that they do not want it, so they have The Receiver handle it all. Neither he nor Jonas knows how to change the rules, which have existed for generations.
At home, Gabriel is a bright child who matures quickly, but he continues to fret at night. Father does not want to release him, as he is a special case with a particularly uncertain status, but the decision will not have to be made for some time. By contrast, a Birthmother is expecting identical twins, and Father will have to select the smaller one to be released. Jonas wonders what will happen to the infant after its release, and if it will go Elsewhere to a different community. He hopes for a moment that Larissa, who was recently released, will receive the newchild, but he suspects that Larissa will rest Elsewhere in a serene place without children.
Jonas suggests that Gabriel sleep in his room tonight so that his parents can get some sleep, to which Father agrees. At first, Gabe sleeps soundly, but later his restlessness wakes Jonas, who pats Gabriel on the back as he idly remembers sailing on a bright breezy day. After a moment, Jonas is startled to realize that he has given most of it to Gabriel, who falls quiet, and he pulls the remnants back, realizing that the memory is now less clear. When Gabriel next wakes, he more deliberately gives the newchild the rest of the memory until Gabriel goes to sleep. He decides not to tell The Giver about this incident since he is not yet qualified as a Giver and Gabriel has not been selected as a Receiver.
One day when The Giver is obviously suffering, Jonas offers to help him, and The Giver asks him to take some of the pain. The memory is of war, and Jonas finds himself on a battlefield next to a dying boy who asks him for water. Jonas's own arm is shattered, but he uses his other arm to give water to the boy's lips. However, the boy dies, and the cries of injured men and horses remain, while he hears cannons in the distance and waits in pain listening to the sounds of war. When Jonas can no longer bear it, he opens his real eyes and mentally returns to the bed. The Giver asks him for forgiveness.
In this section of the novel, Jonas finally experiences a share of the pain that has been foreshadowed for much of the novel. The Giver's decision to begin imparting these memories is an important event in the novel, after which Jonas truly begins to mature and gain wisdom because of the experience of his new memories. The Giver begins with the memory of a broken leg, and although the memory is significantly worse than that of the simple sunburn that had been Jonas’s first encounter with pain, his intense reaction to a broken leg is a sign of Jonas's previously sheltered life.
The memory of the broken leg forces Jonas for the first time to examine some of the rules which he had earlier received as instructions for the Receiver-in-Training, such as the one preventing him from taking medication due to his training or the one about discussing his training by sharing his feelings with the rest of the family at the evening meal. Although a mild analgesic is not a particularly strong form of medication, the entire concept of medication comes to be associated with Sameness and with the suppression of emotions and feelings. The community strives to avoid physical pain such as that of the broken leg, but the suppression also includes the Stirrings, which are ruthlessly inhibited by the pill.
After having experienced memories such as neglect and hunger, Jonas begins to understand why the community would want to have these memories shut away, but The Giver counters with a number of examples in which the wisdom gained from these memories is shown to be critically important to the well-being of the community. However, the Elders rarely ask The Giver for advice, indicating that the static nature of the current society has replaced the values of wisdom and good judgment with those of obedience and maintaining the status quo.
As was foreshadowed by Lily's comparison of Jonas and Gabriel, who are unusual in that they both have pale rather than dark eyes, Gabriel proves to have the ability to receive memories even though he is merely an infant. The sharing of the sailboat memory creates a bond between Jonas and Gabriel that had not previously been present, since Lily and Jonas's father had until then provided the majority of care for Gabriel. Jonas's decision to conceal the memory transmission from The Giver is also unusual, since it shows a new level of conscientious deception that he has never previously shown.
Chapter 15 is a pivotal event in Jonas's training as The Receiver because it introduces him to the concept of war, which drives home the terrible nature of a violent death. It certainly seems reasonable that a society would want to avoid such experiences for good. The memory is intense, visceral, and hopeless, and it sensitizes Jonas to the idea of death, a development in his character that will become pivotal in later chapters. The Giver almost immediately regrets transmitting the memory to Jonas, and he asks Jonas for forgiveness, but on another level, the chapter shows that Jonas's society may be to blame for forcing such memories onto one man.
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
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
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