Study Guide

The Giver Quotes

  • Old Age

    Chapter 1

    There were only two occasions of release which were not punishments. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and the release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we-have-done. This was especially troubling for the Nurturers, like Father, who felt they had failed somehow. But it happened rarely. (1.52)

    Here is the first connection between the very young and the very old in The Giver. These two groups are almost treated like different citizens than everyone else in the community; they have special privileges, but are also subject to different rules.

    Chapter 4

    Last night he had watched as his father bathed the newchild. This was much the same: the fragile skin, the soothing water, the gentle motion of his hand, slippery with soap. The relaxed, peaceful smile on the woman's face reminded him of Gabriel being bathed. (4.21)

    Jonas identifies another similarity between the very young and the very old: peaceful innocence. The elderly, like the young, have no responsibilities and seem to live an easier life.

    Chapter 10
    The Giver

    The man smiled. He touched the sagging flesh on his own face with amusement. "I am not, actually, as old as I look," he told Jonas. "This job has aged me. I know I look as if I should be scheduled for release very soon. But actually I have a good deal of time left." (10.38)

    It looks like the pleasure-pain connection works here, too; The Giver is wiser for his memories, but has been physically weakened by them as well.


    Jonas nodded. The man was wrinkled, and his eyes, though piercing in their unusual lightness, seemed tired. The flesh around them was darkened into shadowed circles.

    "I can see that you are very old," Jonas responded with respect. The Old were always given the highest respect. (10.36-37)

    If the Old have no memories or wisdom, why are they so highly respected? Are they truly respected?

    Chapter 12

    "Oh, there's lots to learn," Fiona replied. "There's administrative work, and the dietary rules, and punishment for disobedience – did you know they use a discipline wand on the Old, the same as for small children? And there's occupational therapy, and recreational activities, and medications, and –" (12.20)

    Notice that the elderly and the young are both kept under control by the discipline wand. In a way, these two groups have less freedom of choice than anyone else in the community.

    Chapter 16

    Jonas blurted out what he was feeling. "I was thinking that…well, I can see that it wasn't a very practical way to live with the Old right there in the same place, where maybe they wouldn't be well taken care of, the way they are now, and that we have a better-arranged way of doing things. But anyway, I was thinking, I mean feeling, actually, that it was kind of nice, then. And that I wish we could be that way, and that you could be my grandparent. The family in the memory seemed a little more – " He faltered, not able to find the word he wanted. (16.47)

    Jonas recognizes the value not only in family, but in forming close relationships with the elderly. In many ways, The Giver is like a grandparent to him: he passes down wisdom to the younger generation.

    Jonas frowned. "But my parents must have had parents! I never thought about it before. Who are my parents-of-the-parents? Where are they? (16.26)

    Lowry's narrative technique is fascinating in that we, the reader, often make discoveries at the same time that Jonas does. Until this passage, we probably didn't think about the fact that Jonas didn't seem to have grandparents either.

    Chapter 20

    Jonas stared at him. "Release is always like that? For people who break the rules three times? For the Old? Do they kill the Old, too?"

    "Yes, it's true." (20.20-21)

    Again, we see that the old are very similar to the infantile in The Giver. This makes sense in a world where wisdom is undervalued—in fact, where it is ignored completely.

  • Isolation

    Chapter 1

    At first, he had only been fascinated. He had never seen aircraft so close, for it was against the rules for Pilots to fly over the community. Occasionally. When the supplies were delivered by cargo planes to the landing field across the river, the children rode their bicycles to the riverbank and watched, intrigued, the unloading and then the takeoff directed to the west, always away from the community. (1.2)

    Much of The Giver has to do with the way Jonas's responsibility as Receiver isolates him from the rest of his community. But it's interesting to note that the novel begins with this, a declaration of the community's isolation from the rest of the world.

    Chapter 13
    The Giver

    "Go," The Giver would tell him tensely. "I'm in pain today. Come back tomorrow."

    On those days, worried and disappointed, Jonas would walk alone beside the river. The paths were empty of people except for the few Delivery Crews and Landscape Workers here and there. Small children were all at the Childcare Center after school, and the older ones busy with volunteer hours or training. (13.80-81)

    Jonas seems to be the only Twelve who is isolated because of his job. This is, needless to say, even more isolating for him.

    "So there will be a whole part of your life which you won't be able to share with a family. It's hard, Jonas. It was hard for me." (13.50-51)

    For The Giver, isolation has to do with the burden of duty. To break his isolation would be to share the memories he holds with others—which we know would cause them pain. In this way, The Giver is self-sacrificing.

    Chapter 14

    Still patting rhythmically, Jonas began to remember the wonderful sail that the Giver had given him not long before: a bright, breezy day on a clear turquoise lake, and above him the white sail of the boat billowing as he moved along in the brisk wind.

    He was aware of giving the memory; but suddenly he realized that it was becoming dimmer, that it was sliding through his hand into the being of the newchild. Gabriel became quiet. Startled, Jonas pulled back what was left of the memory with a burst of will. He removed his hand from the little back and stood quietly beside the crib. (14.76-77)

    Remember when The Giver says that memories are meant to be shared? Exactly. Notice that Jonas forms such a close bond with Gabriel by transferring memories to him, an action he's not allowed to do with anyone else.


    "Mother? Father?" he said, the idea coming to him unexpectedly, "why don't we put Gabriel's crib in my room tonight? I know how to feed and comfort him, and it would let you and Father get some sleep." (14.69)

    Jonas reaches out to Gabriel as a result of his isolation. It says something about the futility of language that he connects best with an infant with whom he cannot communicate verbally.

    Chapter 17

    Jonas looked at her. She was so lovely. For a fleeting instant he thought he would like nothing better than to ride peacefully along the river path, laughing and talking with his gentle female friend. But he knew such times had been taken from him now. He shook his head. After a moment his two friends turned and went to their bikes. He watched as they rode away. (17.40)

    In a way, Jonas's new awareness is what isolates him from his peers. He can't do normal things anymore, like go for walks or play war games, because he's aware of suffering in the world. Since no one else shares this knowledge, he bears his burden alone. Since bearing the burden is a constant and perpetual state of being, he can't ever be with others—at least not in any meaningful way.

    Chapter 20

    "But don't you want to be with me, Giver?" Jonas asked sadly.

    The Giver hugged him. "I love you, Jonas," he said. "But I have another place to go. When my work here is finished, I want to be with my daughter." (20.101-102)

    The idea that death can be a solution to isolation is an interesting one, and this has implications for the ambiguous ending to The Giver. The Giver hints at something like a heaven, some sort of afterlife, where he imagines he will be with his daughter Rosemary. Could it be, then, that Jonas forms the same sort of bond with Gabriel because they're dying together?

    Chapter 22

    Gabriel had not cried during the long frightening journey. Now he did. He cried because he was hungry and cold and terribly weak. Jonas cried too, for the same reason, and another reason as well. He wept because he was afraid now that he could not save Gabriel. He no longer cared about himself. (22.23)

    For Jonas, love is the way to connect with others. For him, isolation is an emotional state. Breaking it has to do with forging close emotional bonds with others – that's why his relationship with The Giver was so important.

  • Rules and Order

    Chapter 1

    Two children – one male, one female – to each family unit. It was written very clearly in the rules. (1.57)

    While the community in The Giver may seem ideal at first, it's information like this that makes us a little nervous. Rules and order have stifled and controlled what we think of as spontaneous, emotional, and personal: family, sex, desire, marriage, and love.

    Next, Mother, who held a prominent position at the Department of Justice, talked about her feelings. Today a repeat offender had been brought before her, someone who had broken the rules before. Someone who she hoped had been adequately and fairly punished, and who had been restored to his place: to his job, his home, his family unit. To see him brought before her a second time caused her overwhelming feelings of frustration and anger. And even guilt, that she hadn't made a difference in his life. (1.59)

    The community has turned rule enforcement into a collective, communal activity. Jonas's Mother even feels personally responsible for another's transgression.

    Chapter 2

    Jonas laughed. It was one of the few rules that was not taken very seriously, and it was almost always broken. The children all received their bicycles at Nine; they were not allowed to ride bicycles before then. But almost always, the older brothers and sisters had secretly taught the younger ones one. Jonas had been thinking already about teaching Lily. (2.17)

    Jonas recognizes that some rules are frivolous, but he still takes his cue on how to act from those around him. He's fine with breaking the bike rule because everyone else does it, but he doesn't break the naked rule, which he finds equally useless.

    Chapter 3

    Everyone had known, he remembered with humiliation, that the announcement ATTENTION. THIS IS A REMINDER TO MALE ELEVENS THAT OBJECTS ARE NOT TO BE ROMOVED FROM THE RECREATION AREA AND THAT SNACKS ARE TO BE EATEN, NOT HOARDED had been specifically directed at him, the day last month that he had taken an apple home. No one had mentioned it, not even his parents, because the public announcement had been sufficient to produce the appropriate remorse. He had, of course, disposed of the apple and made his apology to the Recreation Director the next morning, before school. (3.20)

    The community relies on embarrassment to enforce its rules; we see that laws themselves are not enough, but require the collective support of those they are controlling.

    Chapter 4

    And the nakedness, too. It was against the rules for children or adults to look at another's nakedness; but the rule did not apply to newchildren or the Old. Jonas was glad. It was a nuisance to keep oneself covered while changing for games, and the required apology if one had by mistake glimpsed another's body was always awkward. He couldn't see why it was necessary. He liked the feeling of safety here in this warm and quiet room; he liked the expression of trust on the woman's face as she lay in the water unprotected, exposed, and free. (4.22)

    That the elderly and the very young are exempt from certain rules is another testament to their being separated from the community.

    Chapter 5

    "That's all," she replied, returning the bottle to the cupboard. "But you mustn't forget. I'll remind you for the first weeks, but then you must do it on your own. If you forget, the Stirrings will come back. The dreams of the Stirrings will come back. Sometimes the dosage must be adjusted." (5.41)

    Look at the kinds of feelings and actions the rules of the community are aimed to control. Laws like this one about stopping sexual urges are particularly alarming for us to read; Lowry is manipulating the way we see Jonas's community.

    Chapter 6

    Instead, as a result of Father's plea, Gabriel had been labeled Uncertain and given the additional year. He would continue to be nurtured at the Center and would spend his nights with Jonas's family unit. Each family member, including Lily, had been required to sign a pledge that they would not become attached to this little temporary guest, and that they would relinquish him without protest or appeal when he was assigned to his own family unit at next year's Ceremony. (6.19)

    Here we see even more control over basic human emotions. That such a pledge—to not become attached to an infant—is even possible makes us question how altered the citizens have been by their upbringing.

    Chapter 19
    The Giver

    The Giver's face took on a solemn Look. "I wish they wouldn't do that," he said quietly, almost to himself.

    "Well, they can't have two identical people around! Think how confusing it would be!" Jonas chuckled. (19.3-4)

    Jonas calls the twin situation "confusing," but is this really why the community has the second twin expelled?

  • Language and Communication

    Chapter 1

    Now, thinking about the feeling of fear as he pedaled home along the river path, he remembered that moment of palpable, stomach-sinking terror when the aircraft had streaked above. It was not what he was feeling now with December approaching. He searched for the right word to describe his own feeling.

    Jonas was careful about language. Not like his friend, Asher, who talked too fast and mixed things up, scrambling words and phrases until they were barely recognizable and often very funny. (1.11-12)

    It's lines like this one that make Asher a great foil for Jonas. In this case, the way each boy thinks about language is a great reflection of their larger differences. Jonas is reflective and pensive, but Asher is impulsive and reckless—with language, yes, but also with actions.

    "I felt very angry this afternoon," Lily announced. "My Childcare group was at the play area, and we had a visiting group of Sevens, and they didn't obey the rules at all. One of them – a male; I don't know his name – kept going right to the front of the line for the slide, even though the rest of us were all waiting. I felt so angry at him. I made my hand into a fist, like this." She held up a clenched fist and the rest of the family smiled at her small defiant gesture. (1.27)

    Jonas will later realize that for all the supposed "precision of language," words that have to do with emotion—in this case, anger—are actually meaningless in his community.

    Chapter 7

    The precision of language was one of the most important tasks of small children. Asher had asked for a smack.

    The discipline wand, in the hand of the Childcare worker, whistled as it came down across Asher's hands. Asher whimpered, cringed and corrected himself instantly. "Snack," he whispered.

    But the next morning he had done it again. And again the following week. He couldn't seem to stop, though for each lapse, the discipline wand came again, escalating to a series of painful lashes that left marks on Asher's legs. Eventually, for a period of time, Asher stopped talking altogether, when he was a Three. (7.31-33)

    It's ironic that corporal punishment is tied to language in The Giver. The entire purpose of "precision of language" should be to avoid conflict and problems, misunderstanding, and even potential violence.

    Chapter 9

    Now Jonas had a thought that he had never had before. This new thought was frightening. What if others – adults – had, upon becoming Twelves, received in their instructions the same terrifying sentence?

    What if they had all been instructed: You may lie?

    His mind reeled. Now, empowered to ask questions of utmost rudeness – and promised answers – he could, conceivably (though it was almost unimaginable), ask someone, some adult, his father perhaps: "Do you lie?" (9.45-47)

    With this one small realization, Jonas now has to doubt everything he's ever been told. And, in some way, his suspicions are warranted—later on, after all, he will discover that his Father has been lying to him about what "release" means.

    He had been trained since earliest childhood, since his earliest learning of language, never to lie. It was an integral part of the learning of precise speech. Once, when he had been a Four, he had said, just prior to the midday meal at school, "I'm starving."

    Immediately he had been taken aside for a brief private lesson in language precision. He was not starving, it was pointed out. He was hungry. No one in the community was starving, had ever been starving, would ever be starving. To say starving was to speak a lie. An unintentioned lie, of course. But the reason for precision of language was to ensure that unintentional lies were never uttered. Did he understand that? they asked him. And he had. (9.42-43)

    Check out the moment when Jonas first lies; it is when his Mother and Father ask him if he understands why they don't use the word "love." Lying is tied to language in that to use language incorrectly is to lie. But Jonas is actually defending the integrity of language—of the word "love"—when he first lies to his parents.

    Chapter 13

    "I apologize for hurting you, Lily." Jonas mumbled, and took his hand away.

    "'Cept your apology," Lily responded indifferently, stroking the lifeless elephant. (13.39-40)

    This is when we, as readers, can really see how frivolous "apologies" are in the community. The words are as "lifeless" as the elephant Lily is stroking. (Zing. How do you like THEM apples?)

    Chapter 16

    "Do you love me?"

    There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. "Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please!"

    "What do you mean?" Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.

    "Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it has become almost obsolete," his mother explained carefully.

    Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful as the memory. (16.56-60)

    There it is, in all its explicit glory. Language in the community = empty words. Of course, you realized that language was meaningless six chapters ago, so good job.

  • Tradition and Customs

    Chapter 1

    There were only two occasions of release which were not punishments. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and the release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we-have-done. This was especially troubling for the Nurturers, like Father, who felt they had failed somehow. But it happened rarely. (1.52)

    Tradition is used to mask what should be painful in the community. In this case, death is masked by a fictional "release."

    Chapter 2

    There was talk about changing the rule and giving the bicycles at an earlier age. A committee was studying the idea. When something went to a committee for study, the people always joked about it. They said the committee members would become Elders by the time the rule change was made.

    Rules were very hard to change. Sometimes, if it was a very important rule – unlike the one governing the age for bicycles – it would have to go, eventually, to The Receiver for a decision. The Receiver was the most important Elder. Jonas had never seen him, that he knew of; someone in a position of such importance lived and worked alone. But the committee would never bother The Receiver with a question about bicycles; they would simply fret and argue about it themselves for years, until the citizens forgot that it had ever gone to them for study. (2.18-19)

    A sense of tradition certainly contributes to the Elders' hesitance to change, but there's also the fact that they have no knowledge of the past on which to base their decisions. It's an odd combination, isn't it?

    Though Jonas had only become a Five the year that they acquired Lily and learned her name, he remembered the excitement, the conversations at home, wondering about her: how she would look, who she would be, how she would fit into their established family unit. He remembered climbing the steps to the stage with his parents, his father by his side that year instead of with the Nurturers, since it was the year that he would be given a newchild of his own. (2.13)

    Adults are under the strict control of traditions and customs just as much as children in The Giver.

    Chapter 4

    Larissa opened her eyes happily. "They told his whole life before they released him," she said. "They always do. But to be honest," She whispered with a mischievous look, "some of the tellings are a little boring. I've seen some of the Old fall asleep during tellings – when they released Edna recently. Did you know Edna?" (4.27)

    This particular tradition—the "tellings"—resonates fairly closely with our own tradition of obituaries. It feels almost out of place in Jonas's world, though. Why celebrate the past in a world that refuses to remember anything?

    Chapter 6

    The little girl nodded and looked down at herself, at the jacket with its row of large buttons that designated her as a Seven. Fours, Fives, and Sixes all wore jackets that fastened down the back so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence. (6.6)

    Tradition is seemingly based on logic in The Giver. Everything is done for a reason, and all rituals have their purpose. It is this sort of control that eliminates freedom and choice.

    This new Caleb was a replacement child. The couple had lost their first Caleb, a cheerful little Four. Loss of a child was very, very rare. The community was extraordinarily safe, each citizen watchful and protective of all children. But somehow the first Caleb had wandered away unnoticed, and had fallen into the river. The entire community had performed the Ceremony of Loss together, murmuring the name Caleb throughout an entire day, less and less frequently, softer in volume, as the long and somber day went on, so that the little Four seemed to fade away gradually from everyone's consciousness. (6.27)

    Again, tradition is being used to mask pain. Rather than deal with suffering, recognize it, and work through it, the community just takes the easy way out: they choose to forget it ever happened.

    Chapter 9

    His mother replied, "Her, not his. It was a female. But we are never to speak the name, or use it again for a newchild."

    Jonas was shocked. A name designated Not-to-Be-Spoken indicated the highest degree of disgrace. (9.25-26)

    Tradition works against memory in The Giver. By removing Rosemary's name from use, the community is trying to forget about her. (Fittingly, "Rosemary" is an herb that's supposed to help with memory. Awesome.)

    Chapter 11

    "Climate Control. Snow made growing food difficult, limited the agricultural periods. And unpredictable weather made transportation almost impossible at times. It wasn't a practical thing, so it became obsolete when we went to Sameness." (11.33)

    Through practicality and reasoning, the community has justified all of their customs, even those that destroy human freedom and choice.

  • Choices

    Chapter 6

    Like the Matching of Spouses and the Naming and Placement of newchildren, the Assignments were scrupulously thought through by the Committee of Elders.

    He was certain that his Assignment, whatever it was to be, and Asher's too, would be the right one for them. He only wished that the midday break would conclude, that the audience would reenter the Auditorium, and the suspense would end. (6.52-53)

    There's a certain innocence and faith in Jonas's blind trust in the Elders to make the right decision for him. This is probably because he has no conception that things could ever be otherwise.

    Chapter 13

    "Oh." Jonas was silent for a minute. "Oh, I see what you mean. It wouldn't matter for a newchild's toy. But later it does matter, doesn't it? We don't dare to let people make choices of their own."

    "Not safe?" The Giver suggested.

    "Definitely not safe," Jonas said with certainty. "What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong?" (13.15-17)

    Well that didn't take long. Jonas pulls a 180 faster than you can say "sheep!" Why? Probably because he's not ready to take the leap from static, safe contentment to dynamic, risky freedom…yet.

    The Giver

    "So there will be a whole part of your life which you won't be able to share with a family. It's hard, Jonas. It was hard for me." (13.50-51)

    Is this sort of sacrifice on the part of The Giver a choice, or was he forced into this sort of solitary life because of his job? If he didn't have a choice about it, does that make it any less of a sacrifice?

    Chapter 14
    The Giver

    "Some years ago," The Giver told him, "before your birth, a lot of citizens petitioned the Committee of the Elders. They wanted to increase the rate of births. They wanted each Birthmother to be assigned four births instead of three, so the population would increase and there would be more Laborers available."


    "The Committee of the Elders sought my advice," The Giver said. "It made sense to them too, but it was a new idea, and they came to me for wisdom. (14.27, 31)

    The Giver reminds us that without wisdom, one cannot make choices. Jonas may be right to wonder if the citizens of his community can handle the freedom of choice, particularly since they're denied any knowledge of the past from which to learn.

    Chapter 16

    The next morning, for the first time, Jonas did not take his pill. Something within him, something that had grown there through the memories, told him to throw the pill away. (16.77)

    Think about what happens to Jonas right before he stops taking his pills. Hmm…

    Jonas did not want to go back. He didn't want the memories, didn't want the honor, didn't want the wisdom, didn't want the pain. He wanted his childhood again, his scraped knees and ballgames. He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing the children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because he had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden.

    But the Choice was not his. He returned each day to the Annex room. (16.1-2)

    Jonas is as limited by his duties as the rest of the citizens are by their ignorance.


    Jonas nodded. "I liked the feeling of love," he confessed. He glanced nervously at the speaker on the wall, reassuring himself that no one was listening. "I wish we still had that," he whispered. "Of course," he added quickly, "I do understand that it wouldn't work very well. And that it's much better to be organized the way we are now. I can see that it was a dangerous way to live."

    "What do you mean?"

    Jonas hesitated. He wasn't certain, really, what he had meant. He could feel that there was risk involved, though he wasn't sure how. "Well," he said finally, grasping for an explanation, "they had a fire right there in that room. There was a fire burning in the fireplace. And there were candles on the table. I can certainly see why those things were outlawed. (16.49-51)

    Just as The Giver had to use the sled comparison to talk about memories, Jonas has to use the fire to talk about love. And, much like fire, love is dangerous, but provides a certain warmth. Yes, it's a bit heavy-handed. Don't look at us.

    Chapter 22

    It was as simple as that. Once he had yearned for choice. Then, when he had had a choice, he had made the wrong one: the choice to leave. And now he was starving. (22.20)

    Jonas earlier contemplated the danger that is inherent to making a choice, and now he's facing that danger firsthand. But in all this contemplation, we never get the sense that Jonas regrets having escaped the community. Sure, he may have made the wrong choice, but he seems to still appreciate that he got to make a choice at all. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on our part…

  • Suffering

    Chapter 9

    6. Except for illness or injury unrelated to your training, do not apply for any medication. (9.32)

    This rule makes it clear that suffering is essential to Jonas's job. In order to gain the wisdom that the memories have to offer, he first has to undergo physical pain.

    Chapter 13
    The Giver

    Some afternoons The Giver sent him away without training. Jonas knew, on days when he arrived to find The Giver hunched over, rocking his body slightly back and forth, his face pale, that he would be sent away.

    "Go," The Giver would tell him tensely. "I'm in pain today. Come back tomorrow." (13.79-80)

    The Giver is in pain because of his awareness. Through the memories he holds, he knows there is suffering in the world—even without the mystical quality of the memories (that is, the way that they physically affect whoever holds them). It makes sense that The Giver would suffer for his knowledge.

    Chapter 15

    Jonas entered the Annex room and realized immediately that it was a day when he would be sent away. The Giver was rigid in his chair, his face in his hands.

    "I'll come back tomorrow, sir." He said quickly. Then he hesitated. "Unless maybe there's something I can do to help."

    The Giver looked up at him, his face contorted with suffering. "Please," he gasped, "take some of the pain." (15.1-3)

    Until this moment, The Giver has always sent Jonas away when he was in too much pain. It's interesting to note which memory in particular was too much to bear: warfare.

    Chapter 17

    "I felt sad today," he had heard his mother say, and they had comforted her.

    But now Jonas had experienced real sadness. He had felt grief. He knew there was no quick comfort for emotions like those. (17.10-11)

    It looks like everything is relative; Jonas thought he knew sadness and pain before he saw the intensity of the sadness and pain in the memories he received.

    "Asher," Jonas said. He was trying to speak carefully, and with kindness, to say exactly what he wanted to say. "You had no way of knowing this. I didn't know it myself until recently. But it is a cruel game. In the past, there have – "

    "I said I apologize, Jonas."

    Jonas sighed. It was no use. Of course Asher couldn't understand. "I accept your apology, Asher," he said wearily. (17.37-39)

    It's fitting that Asher ends the argument with empty words, when what Jonas was trying to do in the first place was get his friend to recognize how hollow his actions and words were.

    Chapter 18
    The Giver

    The Giver shook his head and sighed. "No. And I didn't give her physical pain. But I gave her loneliness. And I gave her loss. I transferred a memory of a child taken from its parents. That was the first one. She appeared stunned at its end." (18.34)

    The Giver, because he loved Rosemary, didn't want her to feel physical pain. But his decision to give her emotional pain instead may have been even more destructive.

    Chapter 19

    As he continued to watch, the newchild, no longer crying, moved his arms and legs in a jerking motion. Then he went limp. His head fell to the side, his eyes half open. Then he was still.

    With an odd, shocked feeling, Jonas recognized the gestures and posture and expression. They were familiar. He had seen them before. But he couldn't remember where. (19.45-46)

    Jonas might not have even recognized death at all had he not seen it happen in a memory. This is how removed every citizen is from suffering and from any comprehension of mortality.

    "You suggested, Jonas, that perhaps she wasn't brave enough? I don't know about bravery: what it is, what it means. I do know that I sat here numb with horror. Wretched with helplessness. And I listened as Rosemary told them she would prefer to inject herself.

    "Then she did so. I didn't watch. I looked away." (19.55-56)

    The Giver, for all his memories, for all the pain he's witnessed, still can't bring himself to watch Rosemary die. This experience is so much more painful for him because he loves Rosemary; the memories, however intense, are still impersonal.

  • Memory and the Past

    Chapter 10
    The Giver

    "It's as if…" The man paused, seeming to search his mind for the right words of description. "It's like going downhill through deep snow on a sled," he said, finally. "At first it's exhilarating: the speed; the sharp, clear air; but then the snow accumulates, builds up on the runners, and you slow, you have to push hard to keep going and –" (10.59)

    The Giver's metaphor is interesting. Memories are "exhilarating" at first because they're fun—think birthday parties and Christmas morning. But you have to remember that, in The Giver, happiness and suffering go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. So after the good stuff comes the bad: warfare, pain, injury, isolation. This slows you down, hence the snow building up on the runners. If you want to read all about the significance of the sled in The Giver, check out Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory.

    "There's much more. There's all that goes beyond – all that is Elsewhere – and all that goes back, and back, and back. I received all of those, when I was selected. And here in this room, all alone, I re-experience them again and again. It is how wisdom comes. And how we shape our future." (10.56)

    If the wisdom of the past is necessary to make decisions of the future, then we can see why the community is so resistant to change. They don't have the knowledge they need to make choices, so everything stays the same.

    He rested for a moment, breathing deeply. "I am so weighted with them," he said. (10.57)

    Memories may bring wisdom, but they also bring pain. The Giver forces us to ask if it's worth the suffering to gain the knowledge.

    Chapter 11

    "It hurt a lot," Jonas said, "but I'm glad you gave it to me. It was interesting. And now I understand better. What it meant, that there would be pain." (11.60)

    Notice that, at first, Jonas is guilty of the same hollow use of language that he will later accuse his sister and mother of. He claims to "know" what "pain" "means," three words that will radically change in his mind as he gains more and more wisdom from the memories.

    Chapter 14

    "But why can't everyone have the memories? I think it would seem a little easier if the memories were shared. You and I wouldn't have to bear so much by ourselves, if everyone took a part."

    The Giver sighed, "You're right," he said, "But then everyone would be burdened and pained. They don't want that. And that's the real reason The Receiver is so vital to them, and so honored. They selected me – and you – to lift that burden from themselves." (14.46-47)

    When you look at it this way, the community is guilty of cowardice. And, as we see, the price for this sort of action is high: they may escape pain, but they are deprived of wisdom as well.

    Chapter 18

    "Rosemary had only those five weeks worth, and most of them were good ones. But there were those few terrible memories, the ones that overwhelmed her. For awhile they overwhelmed the community. All those feelings! They'd never experienced that before. (18.52)

    When we read this, we can't help but wonder—as does Jonas—what would happen to the community were they to suddenly receive all the memories that Jonas has stored up. The Giver would seem to take a positive stance here; check out the end of the novel, where Jonas thinks he hears music coming from behind him. Sure, the community may be slapped across the face with the knowledge of all human suffering that has ever occurred in the world, but they also get music (and Christmas, and colors, and lights, and sunshine, and snow, etc., etc).

    Chapter 20

    "The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared." (20.33)

    The problem, we see, isn't with memory itself—it's with the bizarre way the community has chosen to deal with memory.