The Giver

The Giver Summary and Analysis of Chapters 18-20

Chapter 18

Jonas asks The Giver about release, who responds that he sometimes wishes he could request it, but he cannot do so until Jonas is trained. Jonas, feeling dejected because he does not look forward to life as the new Receiver, points out that he cannot ask for release either. The Giver traces the rule back to the failure ten years ago, and Jonas asks for the story. The previous Receiver-in-training was named Rosemary, although it clearly pains The Giver to say that name, and she came to him in much the same manner as Jonas. The Giver loved her, as he does Jonas, and it hurt him to transfer his pain to the enthusiastic and lively Rosemary, so at first he gave her only happy memories.

Rosemary asked for more difficult memories, so The Giver gave her the loneliness and loss of a child taken from its parents. He gave her more happy memories after that, but now that she knew pain, she asked him not to spare her. He did not wish to give her physical pain, so he gave her poverty and terror instead, and one afternoon, Rosemary came to a decision. After hugging him and leaving the Annex, she asked the Chief Elder for release, which at the time was not against the rules.

Jonas reflects that release is not so bad and suggests that Rosemary was not brave enough. He asks what would happen if an accident were to occur. The Giver tells him that with Rosemary, her five weeks of memories returned to the people, overwhelming everyone while the devastated and angry Giver did not aid them. After a moment, The Giver notes thoughtfully that with a year of memories, the loss of Jonas would only be worse for the community, and The Giver would have to help the community as he has helped Jonas.

Chapter 19

Jonas mentions his father's release of the twin today. The Giver wishes they would not release twins, but Jonas points out the confusion possible from having two identical people. The Giver reminds him that he is allowed to ask anything and that everything is recorded for the Hall of Closed Records, and he tells Jonas to watch this morning's release. The Giver asks the speaker for the video, which appears on the screen above the speaker switches. It shows a small room, to Jonas's surprise, since Ceremonies of Release for the Old have many viewers. He watches his father weigh the two and send the larger one back to the Center. Jonas narrates what his father told him, but The Giver hushes him repeatedly.

Jonas watches as his father takes the smaller one and inserts a filled syringe into the newchild's forehead, injecting it while he apologizes to the newborn for having to use his forehead instead of a smaller vein. Jonas waits for his father to clean the child up but instead sees the baby die, and he realizes that his father has killed the twin. Stunned, he sees his father place the body in a carton and send it into a trash chute. The Giver says that he watched the tape of Rosemary's release and saw Rosemary telling them that she would rather inject herself, and he rejects Jonas's suggestion that Rosemary was not brave enough. He, however, could not bear to watch and looked away as she did it. He turns bitterly to Jonas, who feels a horrible sensation of pain.

Chapter 20

Crying, Jonas refuses to go home, expressing a desire to which The Giver acquiesces so that no one will hear him cry. Jonas sarcastically mocks the obedience of people in his community. The Giver reminds him that they do as they have been taught and that they lie because they are instructed to do so, and he tells Jonas that he has never lied to Jonas. He confirms that even the Old are killed and that Fiona, who is already receiving training in release, will feel no remorse because she has not learned feelings in this life. The Giver tells Jonas that he wants to make a plan, although Jonas responds that nothing has changed or will change. The Giver says that the worst part of the memories is the loneliness rather than the pain, and he has realized that sharing memories is a necessity. Furthermore, Jonas has given him an idea.

The plan they conceive is dangerous, but Jonas feels that staying would make life worthless to him. If he leaves, The Giver cannot regain Jonas's memories, and the community will have to bear their own burden and acquire some wisdom. Despite Jonas's protests, The Giver will not leave because he cares about them and has to help them avoid chaos, and the Six named Katharine with the pale eyes is too young to take up the mission. In addition, The Giver does not have the strength to join Jonas and can no longer see colors. However, hearing-beyond was his first experience rather than seeing-beyond, and he has not yet shared music with Jonas. Jonas, however, refuses it, wanting The Giver to keep it after he leaves.

The next day, Jonas and his father lie to each other about how pleasant yesterday was. He goes over his plan to take The Giver's memories of courage and strength in order to survive until he finds Elsewhere. He will leave secretly in two weeks at midnight and head for the Annex while leaving a note for his parents that he will return in time for the Ceremony, while the Ceremony distracts everyone from his absence. The Giver will call for a vehicle and driver, and The Giver will leave in the vehicle with some food and Jonas inside while the driver is distracted. By the time he returns without Jonas, he will go to the Auditorium and announce to the panicked population that Jonas was lost in the river while performing a Ceremony of Loss. He will then help them bear their memories. Jonas wants The Giver to come with him, but he refuses, saying that he wants to be with his daughter Rosemary when his work is finished.


In this section of the novel, Jonas finally discovers the true nature of release, which is shown on video to be euthanasia by lethal injection. The discovery forms a crucial turning point in the novel, as its revelation permanently alienates Jonas from his society in a way that Jonas's previous doubts about the absence of true families and love could not. Furthermore, Jonas's revulsion at the infant's death is conditioned in part by his new memories of death such as in war, which shows the seeming needlessness and horror of some deaths. Not having knowledge of the same experiences, people like Jonas's father and Fiona do not feel the same inner revulsion against euthanasia.

The discovery that Jonas's father has purposely misled Jonas and his sister Lily about release is nearly as difficult for Jonas to comprehend as the mere fact of release being death. When Jonas received the information packet containing rules for his position as The Receiver, the most significant rule for Jonas was that he as The Receiver was allowed to lie. Chapter 19 confirms that the permission to mislead in certain areas like release may be among the secret rules for other positions, such as that of Nurturer or Caretaker of the Old. Jonas did not truly believe that his father would lie to him, but he learns here that his trust of his father may have been misplaced.

Three types of release are referenced within Chapters 18 through 20: assisted suicide, infanticide, and euthanasia of the old. Each reason for release takes place in a different period of life and consequently holds different implications for the individual being released. In the case of Rosemary, to die by lethal injection was a mature choice and a silent protest not only against the evils and pains that beset the human race, but also against the societal system that would place this burden on one individual. The release of the Old is more likely to seem objectionable, but it is far less so than the killing of the twin, who dies before he has the opportunity to life a full life for the sole reason of being the unluckier, slightly lighter twin. Significantly, to release the infant is to choose society’s rules of simplicity and regularity over human life itself, which to Jonas is unconscionable.

The Giver's description of Rosemary's release raises the question of what is bravery, a quality that Jonas and all other Receivers are said to require. Although Jonas's suggestion that Rosemary was not brave enough to handle the memories was made before he realized that her release was equivalent to suicide, Jonas nevertheless represents a point of view that sees choosing to live and bear the burdens of life as the braver path. Rosemary, by contrast, decided that release was the best option and calmly chose to inject herself, suggesting that deciding to die is the ultimate expression both of inner strength and of individual choice.

The release forms the catalyst for a plan to return memory and life to the community, through twin paths that will respectively be taken by Jonas and The Giver. In order to release memories into the community and give the citizens a chance to mature in the same way that Jonas has matured over the past year, Jonas will leave the community forever. This is the move toward Elsewhere that he had thought release involved in the first place. The Giver, for his part, plays a pivotal role in this plan by choosing to stay and act as The Giver for the whole community rather than only for Jonas. In this way, The Giver will atone for his past mistakes and help the community learn rather than allowing it to return to the old ways. Thus far, everyone has referred to Rosemary as the failure of ten years ago, but in one sense, The Giver is the own who failed, missing his chance to help the community learn from the experience because The Giver at the time was lost in his own grief.