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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.
"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.
"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?
"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.
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.
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…
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