The Giver Summary
Meet Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a rigidly controlled society some time in the future. In his "community," there is no suffering, hunger, war, and, as you will soon see, no color, sex, music, or love. Everything is controlled by "the Elders," right down to who you will marry, who you receive as children, and what you will be "assigned" as a job.
Individual identity has gone the way of cassette tapes, and everyone is essentially just like everyone else. It seems that no one has really left the area, except to visit other neighboring communities. To get "released" is a big deal. It only happens to sick infants or really old people, or to people who break the rules.
In short… this world is a terrible place to hang out.
Because Jonas is almost twelve, it's almost time for him to get assigned a profession. There's a big ceremony at which the decisions are announced. Jonas watches all his friends get their jobs (Recreation Director, Caretaker for the Old), but then he's skipped over. The Chief Elder finishes the ceremony and explains that Jonas has been "selected" to be The Receiver of Memory, which is a big deal. Jonas looks over at the current Receiver, an old man who, like Jonas, has light eyes. This is also a big deal; Jonas is one of very few people in the community with light eyes.
Speaking of light eyes, Jonas's family has been taking care of a sick baby named Gabriel with this same unusual characteristic. If the baby doesn't get better within a year or two, he's going to be released from the community.
Okay, so now that Jonas has been selected to be Receiver, he gets a list of rules. They tell him that he isn't allowed to discuss his Receiver "training" with anyone, that he's allowed to lie (!), and that he can ask anyone any questions he wants, even if it's rude. Nice.
And then Jonas starts his training, which consists of receiving a series of memories from the old Receiver, who is now referred to as The Giver. These aren't just any old personal memories; rather, the old man is passing on to Jonas all the memories of humanity, going way back. The memories are from before their community was established, back when there was color and sex and love and music and emotions and hills and snow and sunshine, all of which are notably absent from Jonas's world. The very first memory he receives is that of sledding down a hill in the snow. While Jonas gets to experience lots of fun things like Christmas and birthday parties, he also has to deal with the bad memories, like sunburn, loss, death, and warfare.
Needless to say, this completely changes the way Jonas looks at his world. He realizes that no one around him has ever felt any real emotions at all. A year into his training, Jonas discovers that the process of "release," which is performed on people who break the rules, babies who are sick, and folks who are very old, is really nothing more than a lethal injection.
This doesn't go over too well. He and The Giver devise a plan: Jonas will fake his own death and run away to Elsewhere, a.k.a. the land outside the communities, which is, for all intents and purposes, very similar to our world (in other words, it has music and color and joy, but also violence and poverty). Once Jonas leaves, the memories which The Giver has passed to him will be released to the general community, at which point they'll all just have to deal with the pain. Oh, and also they'll be free, because they'll understand what it means to have choices.
Great. Sounds like a plan. Except it doesn't work. While he's getting ready for the big escape night, Jonas finds out that the little baby with light eyes, Gabriel, is going to be "released" the next morning. He has to make an improvised, fast-paced, and thrilling bicycle escape, taking the baby with him.
Weeks later, Jonas is still biking away from the community with Gabriel. They're basically starving to death. Jonas keeps trying to transmit memories to the little tyke, memories of sunshine and, you know, not starvation, in order to keep them going. Finally, it starts snowing and Jonas gets to the base of a familiar-looking hill. He ditches the bike and walks up with Gabriel, still trying to cling on to pleasant memories.
When he gets to the top, the sled (from the first memory he received from the Giver) is waiting for him. He climbs into it and pushes off down the hill, fully convinced that at the bottom is Elsewhere, and a whole group of people waiting to greet them.
- The Giver begins in late November, and we meet Jonas, a boy who is nervous about what's going to happen in December.
- Right away we know something is up; Jonas lives in a place called "the community" where supplies are brought in by cargo plane. Once, when he saw a jet flying overhead, he was frightened by it.
- After the jet flew by, everyone was ordered to go inside immediately. Jonas remembers that, at the time, his younger sister Lily was at the Childcare Center.
- Okay, so it sounds like this is some sort of highly controlled society. The citizens all have prescribed jobs, like Street Cleaners or Landscape Workers.
- But about this jet: shortly after the incident, the loudspeakers announced that the pilot had been flying there by accident, and because he had made a mistake, he would get "released." (Creepy? Yes, a little bit.)
- This word "released" is a big deal: it would be a big punishment for a regular citizen of the community. It's basically like getting voted off the island.
- Anyway, the whole jet thing happened last year. Back to the present, where Jonas is feeling "apprehensive."
- We learn that he is "careful with language"; he doesn't want to use the word "frightened" to describe his feeling, because it isn't technically correct.
- Apparently everyone is this careful about language in the community, except for Jonas's good friend, Asher, who is laughed at for talking too fast.
- Jonas is eleven, and this coming December is a very special December for all the kids that are eleven. (They're actually called "Elevens.") That's why he's feeling apprehensive.
- Next we see Jonas at dinner with his family. They go through a ritual where each person talks about their feelings. No, seriously; they talk about their feelings. And you thought dinner with your family was annoying.
- Jonas makes his sister Lily, a Seven, go first. She talks about feeling angry during playtime earlier that day, at a "visiting group of Sevens" who weren't playing by the rules. (So it sounds like there are other communities like the one we see here.)
- Lily's parents explain that the visitors were only breaking the rules because they didn't understand the rules. Lily stops being angry.
- Jonas's Father, a "Nurturer," talks about his day at work. (Nurturers take care of new-born children, we're told.) He's concerned for a newborn baby boy whose health is failing.
- We learn that there are three reasons for a citizen to be "released" from the community. The first, we already know, is for punishment. The second is for the very old, and the third is for newborns who, for one reason or another, can't stay to be raised in the community.
- Jonas's Father says he may bring the baby home for while, so someone can look closely after him at night.
- Lily jokes about keeping the baby boy, but no one finds this funny, since such an act would be against the rules. Each family must have two children, one boy and one girl, and these children are assigned to them. So are spouses. Sounds pretty impersonal.
- Then Jonas's Mother, who works at the Department of Justice, talks about her feelings. Today she had to deal with a "repeat offender," someone who keeps breaking the rules.
- By "repeat offender" she means he's broken two rules; if he breaks a third, he has to get released. Because those are the rules.
- And now it's Jonas's turn. He wishes he could hide his feeling of apprehension, but, as you might have guessed by now, that would be… against the rules.
- So he talks about how he's apprehensive about "the Ceremony of Twelve" in December.
- Jonas's Mother and Father send Lily away so they can speak with Jonas in private.
- Jonas's Father gives him the old, "I remember when I was your age" opener, and Jonas starts thinking about all the other Ceremonies he's witnessed, like The Ceremony for the Ones, when Lily was, you know, a One.
- Turns out, every year, there are exactly fifty babies. And when they turn One, they get named.
- Jonas's Father confesses that he can sneak a peak at the naming list before it's publicly announced. As a matter of fact, he's already done so for the little sick baby boy he talked about earlier. The kid's name is Gabriel. Or "Gabe," as Jonas's Father likes to call him.
- So we learn that all these Ceremonies take place over two days in December; that is, The Ceremony for the Ones and The Ceremony of Twelve, etc. Every year, something happens for a kid. For example, when he's nine,
he gets his bicycle. Every child becomes a year older together—no one has an individual birthday.
- Although it's against the rules to ride a bike before you turn nine, apparently this is one of the few rules that everybody breaks. (Like jay-walking.)
- Apparently, once the rules are established, they're really hard to change.
- The rules are decided by the Elders, really old people.
- The head honcho is The Receiver, whom no one ever sees.
- Meanwhile, Jonas's Father is still reminiscing about when he was a kid.
- Through his remembering, we learn what this big mysterious Ceremony of Twelve really means: it's when everyone learns what his or her profession is going to be. Since Jonas's Father was always so good with kids, he knew he'd be a Nurturer.
- It turns out that the Elders watch the young people (in a not at all creepy way…) to figure out what job they should have.
- Jonas wonders what Asher will be assigned—it seems the kid is a bit of a class clown.
- Jonas's Mother explains that the Ceremony of Twelve is the last ceremony; after that, no one keeps track of how old he/she is anymore. They stop seeing their friends, and life basically becomes about their work after that.
- At that moment, Lily shows up to ask for her "comfort object." (And with a name like that, who wouldn't?) Her Mother reminds her that when she becomes an Eight, she won't be allowed to keep her comfort object anymore.
- The object is a stuffed elephant, which Lily receives and happily takes to bed with her.
- Jonas knows that comfort objects are always imaginary creatures, like elephants. His own had also been an imaginary creature, called "a bear." (!)
- So the private conversation is over, but Jonas still has no idea what he might be assigned as a profession.
- Jonas's Father brings home the sick baby, Gabriel, who Lily remarks has "funny eyes" just like Jonas.
- "Funny" turns out to mean "light-colored"; almost everyone is the community has dark eyes, except for a very few, like Jonas and Gabe. Jonas knows that it's rude to point out when people are different. Looks like Lily doesn't. She wonders aloud if maybe Gabe and Jonas had the same birth mother.
- Jonas's Father puts away his bicycle, and we're now pretty sure that there are no cars in this community. Just bikes.
- Jonas thinks that light eyes make a person look as though he has "depth."
- Lily thinks Gabe is just so adorable she could eat him up; she says she wishes she could be a Birthmother.
- From her Mother's reaction, it's pretty clear that being a Birthmother is right on par with eating out of garbage cans. The rules say that someone can be a Birthmother for the duration of three pregnancies, but the rest of their life is hard labor. They're really just human incubators.
- While Lily coos over the baby, Jonas sits at his desk and does homework. He thinks about the loudspeakers, which always make general announcements aimed at individuals. For example, Lily's hair ribbons are untied, so there will likely be an announcement that says, "This is a reminder that hair ribbons should remain tied." He remembers being chastised this way when he was younger.
- That incident had to do with his taking an apple home from school, so the announcement was about not hoarding snacks.
- But that's not the point of this story. Jonas remembers why he took the apple home in the first place. He and Asher were playing catch with the apple when "it changed."
- Okay…changed how?
- Jonas isn't sure. He just knows that it changed. It stayed the same shape, the same "nondescript shade" as his shirt, the same size—but somehow, and he can't describe it exactly, it changed. Four times it changed, only momentarily each time. Asher didn't notice anything unusual, though.
- So that's why Jonas took the apple home: to see what was different about it. He couldn't find anything.
- Jonas looks for Asher so they can do their "volunteer hours" after school. This is really the only part of the day, he notes, where he gets to decide what he wants to do (that is, where he wants to volunteer). The children start volunteer hours when they become Eights.
- Jonas thinks about a boy named Benjamin who spent all his hours at the Rehabilitation Center, and who basically knows everything there is to know about the job while he's still only Eleven.
- He finally finds Asher's bicycle (they all have name tags on them) outside the House of the Old, next to Fiona's bicycle. Jonas thinks she's a cool girl; like Asher, she's got a sense of humor.
- Once inside, Jonas signs the log book that records his volunteer hours. If he didn't have enough come December, he wouldn't be allowed to take part in the Ceremony (which, as you might guess, is quite disgraceful).
- The woman at the front desk reports that they celebrated a release earlier that day (remember, being old is one of the non-disgraceful reasons for getting released).
- Jonas heads to the bathing room to join Asher and Fiona. On the way, he realizes that he didn't rack up all his volunteer hours in one place, the way that Benjamin guy did; he basically tried out all of the community jobs. This means he has no idea what assignment he'll get at the Ceremony…
- Once in the bathing room, Jonas sets to bathing an old woman. It reminds him of the way his father bathed the baby Gabriel last night. He knows it's against the rules for any person to see another person naked, except for babies and the elderly. This "no being naked" rule seems useless to him.
- The old woman, whose name is Larissa, tells Jonas about the release that happened earlier that day. At these events, they always tell the life story of the person who's getting released—just think of it as an obituary.
- Some of "the Tellings," as she calls them, are boring, but this one—for a man named Roberto—was particularly interesting. Roberto had lived a full life.
- Jonas asks Larissa what it's like, the actual moment of release.
- She's not sure. All she knows is that the person in question walks through a door to the Releasing Room. But she does report that Roberto looked happy as he left.
- They both wonder why children aren't allowed to witness releases.
- At breakfast, Jonas and his family go through yet another ritual: telling their dreams.
- Jonas usually doesn't remember his dreams, but this morning is a different story.
- In Jonas's dream, he narrates to his family, he was in a bathtub—like the ones at the House of the Old. He was bare-chested.
- And Fiona was there.
- And he was trying to convince her to get in the tub with him.
- Cue the steamy music.
- Jonas talks about two feelings: wanting, and feeling that he shouldn't. (In other words...puberty!)
- His family thanks him for sharing. While Jonas's Father takes Lily off to school, Mother asks Jonas to stay behind.
- Jonas's Mother tells him that these feelings are called "Stirrings," that he has to report them every time they happen (awkward!), and that she has a pill that will make them all go away. (It's like, anti-Viagra.) Turns out, everyone takes these pills, every day, until they end up in the House of the Old.
- (So we're thinking sex isn't happening in this community.)
- And thus ends the weirdest birds and bees conversation ever.
- As Jonas bikes off to school, he remembers that the "Stirrings" felt good. He wants to feel that way again.
- Except he took a pill. So he forgets all about the dream.
- It's finally time for this Ceremony we've been hearing so much about. As Lily gets ready, Jonas reminds her of how she got her front-button jacket when she turned Seven. Before they become Sevens, children have to wear coats that fasten in the back, so they can learn "interdependence" by buttoning each other up.
- When Jonas and his family shows up, we see that the entire community attends the Ceremonies. Jonas's Mother takes a seat in the audience, but his Father, because he's a Nurturer, is going to take part in the naming of the Ones.
- Gabe isn't there with the other Ones because he's, in short, the runt of the litter. Since he isn't healthy or grown enough to be placed with a family, normal routine says he should be released from the community. But the previous night, Jonas's Father appealed and won another year for Gabe, on the condition that Jonas's family take care of him until he is well.
- On top of that, Jonas, Lily, and their parents all had to sign a document promising not to get emotionally attached
to Gabe. Seriously.
- As the new babies get their names, Jonas sits with Fiona (who just got a new little brother) and Asher. He thinks about how much he likes the name "Gabriel."
- One family just lost a son, a four-year-old named Caleb, when he drowned in the river. Afterwards, everyone partook in the Ceremony of Loss, where they repeated the name of the dead boy softer and softer until everyone forgot about him. And now today, the family gets a new Caleb! Seriously.
- That's it for the first day of the Ceremonies. The second morning is when the Ceremony of Twelve takes place.
- So now we're at day two. The bicycles are presented to the Nines, the Tens get their hair cut, and the Elevens get new clothes.
- When the community breaks for lunch, Jonas and his friends talk nervously about their impending Ceremony. Asher relates the urban myth that a boy who thought he was going to be an Engineer was assigned to be a Sanitation Laborer and swam away across the river to another community.
- He reports that, if you really hate your assignment, you can apply to be transferred to "Elsewhere" and leave. This, too, is somewhat of a myth, so Jonas isn't sure if it's really true.
- Besides, Jonas doubts that the Elders could ever make the wrong decision. Just look at the way spouses are matched up—they spend years calculating all sorts of compatibility factors before they allow any couples to be formed.
- It's finally time for the Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas and his friends line up in the order of the numbers they were given at birth, before they all had names. The numbers reflect the order in which the children are born; Jonas is number nineteen, which means he's on the older side of his group of children.
- The group will receive its assignments in this order, as well. Asher, we see, is number four.
- The Chief Elder, an aged woman, gives a little speech to the group of young people. She notes that, until now, differences were a bad thing. But today, differences are called out and used to decide each individual's future.
- And then the assignments begin: Fish Hatchery Attendant, Birthmother, Instructor of Sixes.
- Then it's Asher's turn. The Chief Elder relates some anecdotes about Asher to the crowd, like when he was little and couldn't distinguish between the words "smack" and "snack." (Apparently it's a common punishment for young people to receive "smacks" with a "discipline wand.") Anyway, every time Asher wanted a snack he accidentally said "smack." So his teacher would smack him on the leg.
- Anyway, the Chief Elder finally gets around to giving Asher his assignment: Assistant Director of Recreation. Yay.
- And the assignments continue. When the Chief Elder gets to Fiona, number Eighteen and standing to Jonas's left, she assigns Caretaker of the Old, which everyone finds appropriate.
- Since, as we all know, nineteen comes after eighteen, it's Jonas's turn.
- And then…
- The Chief Elder moves on to number Twenty. She skips Jonas. Everyone notices, and the crowd is all hushed.
- But the Chief Elder keeps right on rolling through all of the kids. Jonas wonders what he might have done wrong.
- Finally, when all the Twelves have gotten their assignments, the Elder addresses the fact that she skipped Jonas. She apologizes, and everyone ritualistically chants, "We accept your apology."
- She goes on to say that Jonas has not been assigned; rather, he has been selected.
- Selected to be…
- The Receiver of Memory.
- Evidently, this a big deal, because the crowd all basically gasps.
- The Chief Elder explains that the community has only one Receiver at a time, and that the current Receiver—an old man—trains the next one.
- Everyone looks over to the Committee of Elders where the current Receiver—indeed a very old man—sits. He has pale eyes, just like Jonas.
- The Chief Elder explains that they tried to pick a new Receiver about ten years ago, but it failed. This is clearly an uncomfortable topic for everyone, so she quickly moves on.
- There's no room for error here, she says, so they've been careful in selecting Jonas, who now has to lead what is portrayed as a mostly solitary life.
- Then she starts listing all of Jonas's qualities which qualify him to be The Receiver: intelligence, integrity, courage (there will be pain, she says), and wisdom (although Jonas doesn't have this yet, he'll soon be acquiring it. By the boatload).
- There is one more quality, she says, "The Capacity to See Beyond."
- Jonas is just about to object and explain that, actually, he doesn't have any special Capacity, when he looks over the crowd and sees them "change," the same way the apple once did.
- So he says to the Chief Elder that yes, indeed, he does sometimes see something.
- So everything is hunky-dory. The crowd chants his name and Jonas is both proud and fearful of what is to come.
- As the crowd files out of the auditorium, Jonas meets up with Asher, who hesitates a moment before agreeing to ride back home with his friend. It's a little strained when they finally part ways.
- That night at dinner, Jonas asks his parents about the "failed" receiver from ten years ago.
- His parents hesitate to talk about it, and finally reveal that it was a girl, but they can't say her name. In fact, her name can never be used ever again in the community, even for new babies.
- This is a big deal; it means disgrace.
- Jonas asks what happened to the girl, but his parents report that they never saw her again after the "failure."
- And that's that. Though they do congratulate their son and insist that he was "greatly honored" by this selection.
- After the ceremony, all the new Twelves had been given folders of materials in the way of training for their new jobs. In bed that night, Jonas opens his to find just one sheet of paper.
- It's a list of instructions telling him to go to the Annex entrance behind the House of the Old as soon as he's finished with school. Immediately afterwards, he has to return home. He is exempt from rules about rudeness, it says, which means he can ask anyone any question he wants. (Nice perk!) He's not allowed to discuss his training with anyone, and he's no longer permitted to share his dreams. He can't apply for any medication if the injury is related to his training, he can't ask to be released, and he is allowed to lie.
- Jonas realizes he has no recreation time anymore. He's shocked about being able to lie and ask rude questions.
- Then he ponders this: what if everyone got permission to lie when they turned twelve?
- Holy moly, he thinks (roughly speaking). Since he can ask rude questions, he knows he could ask his Father whether or not he lied.
- Except, he wouldn't know if the answer was true or not. (Unless the answer was "yes," but Jonas doesn't get into that logic mess.)
- Jonas rides with Fiona to the House of the Old. She goes in the normal entrance for her training, and he heads to the Annex for his.
- He buzzes at the door and is allowed inside. The female attendant stands and greets him as "Receiver of Memory," which makes him slightly uncomfortable. She then unlocks the door to The Receiver's room, which makes him even more uncomfortable, since doors in the community don't have locks on them.
- Jonas goes through the door into what appears to be The Receiver's living area. It's got a bed, desk, table, etc.
- Most shocking are the books. Until now, Jonas has only seen books for reference or rules. But here are shelves of books, about what he doesn't know.
- And then Jonas suddenly realizes that, hey, the old Receiver is sitting in the corner. Jonas greets him and stumbles about awkwardly in his speech until the old man declares that Jonas is the new Receiver, so he himself isn't any longer.
- When Jonas remarks on how old the man is (which is a compliment, somehow), the old man says he isn't as old as he looks, but the job has aged him considerably.
- He then tells Jonas to feel free to ask as many questions as he wants. He explains that his job is to transmit to Jonas all the memories of the past.
- Jonas says he has some experience with this, like listening to old people tell stories.
- The old man explains that this isn't what he means; he won't be transmitting memories of his own personal past, but rather memories of the whole world. "It is how wisdom comes," he explains, "and how we shape our future."
- He pauses to lament the terrible weight of all these memories.
like going downhill on a sled, he explains. At first it's quick and easy, until the snow builds up on the runners and then you have to push and push to keep going…
- Then he stops, realizing that such a simile has no effect on Jonas, who doesn't know what "snow" or a "sled" or "runners" are. Or "downhill," for that matter.
- The old man then orders Jonas to take off his tunic and lie face down on the bed. Jonas does so, and then watches the old man go to the wall and turn off the speaker. Every house he's ever been in has one, but Jonas has never seen a speaker with an "off" switch before.
- Jonas asks the old man what he's going to do, and the old man puts his hands on Jonas's back, explaining that he's going to transmit the memory of snow.
- Jonas chills out on the bed and waits for the memory of snow.
- All of a sudden, he's very cold. He can no longer feel the old man's hands on his back. He feels something like pinpricks on his skin, and sticks out his tongue to catch the falling white things.
- Part of him, he feels, is still lying on the bed in the Annex. But the other part is somewhere else, sitting on a hard surface with a rope in his hands.
- All of a sudden, he knows that he is surrounded by snow and that he's sitting on a sled. He then races downhill, fast at first, until the snow piles up and the runners come to a standstill.
- Then he opens his eyes and is back in the room with the old man.
- The old man says that was tiring for him, but that he feels lightened because he gave away one memory.
- Jonas asks if that means the old man doesn't have that particular memory anymore. The Receiver admits that, yes, this is true, but he has thousands of memories just like it, so he won't miss it.
- Jonas wants to know why they don't have things like that anymore—snow or sleds or runners or anything. The old man explains that this is a very, very old memory that's been passed through generations of Receivers. The reason they don't have snow anymore is because of climate control. Weather that wasn't conducive to growing crops was essentially eliminated when they "went to Sameness."
- This "Sameness," as he calls it, is also why the community has no hills. They slow down transportation.
- When Jonas mentions something about the old man having a lot of power, the old man corrects him. He has honor, but not power.
- Anyway, it's time to transmit another memory. This time, though, the old man doesn't want to tell Jonas the name—he wants to see if Jonas can tell just from the memory what everything is called.
- The old man begins to transmit the memory. Jonas identifies warmth coming from the sky and decides that this mysterious thing is called "sunshine." This, too, we are told, was done away with when they went to Sameness.
- The old man decides they are done for the day. Before he goes, Jonas asks why the Chief Elder talked about this job being a painful one.
- The old man explains that it will be painful, but that his "previous failure" taught him that he should start with pleasant memories first.
- Since Jonas is all, "Bring it on, baby," so the old man transmits one last memory for the day: sunburn.
- As he's leaving, Jonas says that he's not sure what to call the old man; if Jonas himself is now The Receiver, what is the old man?
- The man replies that he is now The Giver.
- The next morning at breakfast, Jonas manages to avoid directly lying while not telling his dream to his parents.
- The dream involved his sledding down the hill, again and again, always about to reach something at the bottom, except he doesn't know what the something is. He knows that it is something good, however—something "welcoming."
- Jonas heads to school, and during lunch everyone is buzzing about their new assignments and their training. Jonas realizes he couldn't explain his training even if he were allowed, since no one knows what a sled or hill or snow is anyway.
- When he sees Fiona, it's clear that she expects him to talk about his training. When he doesn't, she's a little taken aback, but she can't ask directly because that would be rude.
- So she just talks about her training to work with the elderly. She reveals that they use a discipline wand on the Old the same way they do on the young.
- Then, as he's looking at Fiona, she "changes" the same way the apple did that day. It only happens for an instant, and it is just her hair that changes.
- When he arrives at The Giver's place after school, Jonas decides to ask him about it.
- The Giver wants to know if Jonas looked down at the sled when he was experiencing the memory. Jones says no, he didn't.
- Indeed, says The Giver, this is a case of his seeing beyond; the same thing happened to him when he was Jonas's age, but it happened a little bit differently.
- Before he explains, however, he makes Jonas lie down and tells him to recall the memory of the snow from yesterday.
- Jonas concentrates and suddenly is back on the sled. He looks down. Whatever quality that the apple had and that Fiona's hair had for a brief moment, this sled has permanently. He doesn't know what it is, though.
- Jonas comes back from his memory and The Giver has him look up at one of the books on the shelf, which immediately "changes" the way the apple did.
- The Giver then confirms his diagnosis: "You're beginning to see the color red," he tells Jonas.
- Not only does Jonas not know what "color" means, he also doesn't know what "red" means. The Giver explains that, back in the day, before "Sameness," objects had a shape and size, but they also had a color. That's what Jonas saw in the apple, in Fiona's hair, and even in the faces of the crowd at the Ceremony, since flesh has red tones in it.
- The Giver says that the genetic scientists couldn't work all the kinks out, which is why people like Jonas sometimes still see it.
- Jonas thinks the color is beautiful, and The Giver explains that he will soon be able to see all the colors.
- Naturally, Jonas wants to know why anyone would ever get rid of something so wonderful. The Giver explains that it was a choice, and that for losing things like color, they gained control.
- Jonas vehemently exclaims that they shouldn't have made such a choice, and The Giver is all, "Patience."
- Jonas asks what The Giver meant when he said he, too, "saw beyond" when he was a kid, but in a different way. The Giver says he'll save that lesson for another day, and begins to send to Jonas the memory of a rainbow.
- As the weeks go by, Jonas learns all the colors, but still sees only glimpses of them in the world around him.
- Jonas is angry that the world is devoid of color; it's not fair, he says.
- The Giver asks him to explain. Jonas argues that without color, there aren't choices. He can't decide in the morning whether he wants to wear blue or red. He knows what color your shirt is isn't really important, but he thinks the ability to choose at all is what matters—on principle.
- Jonas elaborates by discussing Gabriel, whom The Giver already knows about. What if Gabriel could choose which color toy he wanted?
- The Giver explains that, if that were the case, then Gabriel might make the wrong choices.
- Jonas realizes the wisdom. He agrees that people shouldn't be allowed to choose their own spouses or jobs, because they might be wrong. "We really have to protect people," he says, "from wrong choices," because that way "it's safer."
- Well, that was quick. So much for Jonas the freedom-lover.
- Still, though, Jonas doesn't quite feel satisfied with his own conclusion. He feels frustrated.
- Actually, he feels angry. All the time. He's angry at his friends, for example, for being satisfied with their lives, which are so dull and not vibrant.
- He even tries to get Asher to see color one day, which doesn't go over so well, especially when he tries to touch Asher to make him see it. (Touching is a no-no in this community.)
- One day The Giver transmits to Jonas the memory of poachers killing an elephant. (On a side note, Jonas sees for the first time men with a different color skin than his own.) The dead elephant's mate finds it after the poachers hack off its tusks, which is sad.
- That night, Jonas tries to tell his sister that her comfort object—an elephant—used to really exist. She thinks he's just messing around. When he tries to transmit the memory to her (again by touching ), it doesn't work.
- Jonas finally gets around to asking The Giver why he doesn't have a spouse; is he allowed to apply for one?
- The Giver answers that yes, he is allowed, but since he's old, his former spouse now lives with the Childless Adults. (This seems to be status quo for older folk, when their children are grown and their family unit is no longer needed.)
- The Giver explains that
Jonas can apply for a spouse some day if he wants to, but it will be difficult. Books, for example, would have to be hidden from his family.
- The Giver paints the portrait of a solitary, secret life—even in marriage. When he gets to the part about advising the Committee of Elders, Jonas gets nervous. After all, that's a big responsibility.
- But the old man assures Jonas that they don't ask for help too often; in fact, he wishes they asked for help more often—there's so much he wishes he could change about the community, but these guys are having none of it.
- The subject of the "failure" from ten years ago comes up, and Jonas asks what happened.
- The Giver explains that, when she (the last Receiver of Memory) failed, the memories didn't come back to him. Instead, they were released to the world—everyone had access to them, the way it used to be.
- This made it clear to everyone just how much they needed a Receiver—so that someone could suffer on behalf of everyone else.
- He goes on to explain that his life, his job, is simply to hold the memories.
- Jonas starts talking about his science instructors at school and the way they explain how the brain works, but The Giver cuts him off by asserting that that they know nothing. All the "knowledge" they have, he says, is meaningless without the memories.
- Sometimes, when Jonas shows up for his training, The Giver is rocking in pain and sends him away without training. When this happens, Jonas goes for long walks alone and tries to test his memory by looking for colors and trying to feel the sun.
- He walks all the way to the river and stands at the bridge that leads to other communities. He's crossed it a few times, on school trips, for example, but other than that, travel across it is forbidden.
- He wonders what everything looks like Elsewhere, beyond the neighboring communities. Do they have hills and colors and sunshine?
- One day, Jonas asks The Giver what causes him so much pain.
- When the man doesn't answer, Jonas asks if perhaps it isn't about time for him to take some of the painful memories to carry himself.
- The Giver agrees.
- For this memory, The Giver sends Jonas back to his spot on the hill with the sled.
- To make a long story short… the sled tips over and Jonas breaks his leg. Many feelings of "Ow!" follow, along with some vomit and blood.
- When he gets back to the room with The Giver, Jonas asks for relief-of-pain, which we understand to be medication.
- The Giver refuses, and Jonas limps home, still feeling the physical pain of the memory.
- That night, Jonas doesn't tell his parents anything about his training, as the rules specify. He refuses medication when they offer it to him, and goes to bed feeling lonely. "They have never known pain," he thinks of his family.
- The Giver starts transmitting more and more painful memories to Jonas, though he always ends the day with a pleasant memory, like sailing on a blue lake during sunset.
- After he receives the memory of starvation, Jonas asks The Giver why it is they need to preserve this sort of horror.
- The Giver explains that the memories provide the wisdom he needs to advise the Elders. Years ago, he says, they wanted every Birthmother to have four children instead of three, so there would be more laborers. He had to remind them that a large population might lead to starvation—even warfare.
- Jonas doesn't know what "warfare" is.
- The Giver continues. He couldn't explain to the committee what hunger was, so they just had to take his word for it that four births per mother was a bad idea.
- Same deal, he says, with the plane that flew overhead years ago. He advised them not to shoot it down—as they wanted to—because he knew the horror that such hasty violence can cause.
- Jonas asks why everyone doesn't have the memories, and The Giver explains that they don't want everyone to have to be burdened with the suffering like the two of them are.
- Jonas wants to apply for a change of rules, but they both know it just ain't gonna happen.
- Meanwhile, little Gabriel is doing well. He's growing and eating and healthy, although he still needs extra attention at night. Jonas's father hopes that they won't release him, given that he's put so much time into caring for the infant.
- He reports that twin males are going to be born next month, which means one of them will have to be released (whichever one weighs less is the general rule).
- Jonas, who is listening to all this, thinks about the bridge that leads out of the community and wonders again about Elsewhere. What would happen to the twin who was released?
- He thinks a moment about Larissa, the old woman he bathed that day before the Ceremony of Twelve. Fiona told him she had been released recently, and he hopes that she will be waiting to welcome the twin.
- But Jonas knows this is foolish; wherever Larissa is now, she wouldn't be given a child to raise. (He seems to have no concept of "death" at all; it sounds like Jonas thinks all the elderly that have ever been released are just hanging out somewhere across the bridge.)
- Jonas suddenly asks his father if they can put Gabriel's crib in his room tonight; his parents agree.
- In the middle of the night, Gabriel's fussing wakes Jonas. He pats the baby and, while doing so, starts thinking about the pleasant memory—the one of the sailboat.
- Accidentally, he begins transmitting the memory to Gabe, who is comforted and stops fussing. Jones can feel the memory disappearing from his mind, so he pulls it back.
- The next time Gabriel wakes, he gives the baby more of the memory, knowing he can take another one from The Giver.
- Then he wonders if he's just broken some unknown rule; it's not like he had permission, after all, to start transmitting his memory…
- When Jonas shows up at The Giver's room, the old man is crumpled in pain. Jonas readies to leave, but The Giver begs him to take some of the pain, which he willingly does.
- This time, Jonas receives the memory of a body-strewn battlefield. He himself is lying on the ground and seems to be missing a good chunk of his arm, and he's forced to watch a comrade beside him slowly die.
- When he can't take anymore, Jonas opens his eyes and returns to the room with The Giver.
- The Giver apologizes for having transmitted such an awful memory, and he looks away from Jonas.
- After that, Jonas doesn't want to go back to the Annex. He just wants a normal life like all of his friends.
- The Giver, trying to make up for the whole warfare thing, transmits some really good memories to Jonas: a birthday party, for instance, which shows Jonas how nice it is to be singled out as an individual, instead of always the same as everyone else.
- When he gets to experience riding a horse, Jonas sees how wonderful the bond between man and animal can be. When he sits beside a campfire in the dark, he knows at last the joy of solitude.
- Jonas asks The Giver what his favorite memory is, adding that he doesn't have to give it away yet.
- The old man, however, is happy to give away the memory. He transmits to Jonas the scene of Christmas morning.
- Afterwards, he asks Jonas what he saw. Jonas talks about family, and has to ask the word for "grandparents," which he didn't know.
- For the first time, Jonas comprehends that his parents have parents. He thinks about the way it works in his community, the system in place for dealing with the elderly, which he still thinks works pretty well.
- Still, there was a strong emotion in the Christmas scene that he felt but could not name. He struggles for a bit, and finally The Giver tells him that it was love.
- Jonas, embarrassed, expresses a wish for love in his own life. He wishes The Giver could be his grandfather. He wishes he could experience what he felt in the memory.
- Although, he concedes, he recognizes that that is a very "dangerous" way to live.
- When The Giver asks him to explain, however, all Jonas can come up with is a comment on the fire that was burning in the room, and the way that flames are dangerous. Although he did like the warmth…
- Later, back at home, Jonas hesitantly asks his parents if they love him.
- They're a bit flustered, and chuckling, they reprimand him to pay attention to "precision of language."
- Jonas is confused.
- His Father explains that such a word has become obsolete, meaningless even.
- This confuses him further, since the emotion he felt of love was far from meaningless.
- When they ask him if he understands what they mean, he says yes—which is his first lie to his parents.
- That night, Gabriel's crib is still in Jonas's room. Since his parents are pleased that Jonas can get the baby to sleep through the night, they have decided to leave the crib there.
- In the middle of the night, Jonas whispers to Gabriel about colors and memories and grandparents and love, telling him that things could be different than they are.
- The next morning, Jonas throws away his pill (to stop the Stirrings, remember?).
- The next thing we hear, there's an impromptu holiday
declared over the public speakers.
- Jonas goes to find Asher.
- Meanwhile it's been four weeks since Jonas stopped taking his "No more sexual urges!" pills. He's been having some pretty sexy dreams in the meantime, but we're spared the details, juicy or otherwise.
- He's also started seeing color everywhere and all the time, too, instead of just for fleeting moments.
- He realizes that he's feeling emotions more deeply than before, that for all their talk of "precision of language" the citizens of his community really don't know what they're talking about. He remembers when his sister said she was "angry." P-shaw—he knows that wasn't really anger.
- The upside is, while he has felt all these horrible emotions in their true and deepest forms, he's also capable of feeling happiness to a greater degree. Like today.
- Jonas finds Asher playing with some other kids. They're all running around pretending to shoot each other.
- Jonas stops cold. He never before realized that this popular game was a game of war. Knowing what real war is like, he's less than interested in playing.
- When Jonas begs his friends not to play the game anymore, Asher is angry. He's training to be Assistant Director of Recreation, after all—he's the one who should be the expert on games, not Jonas.
- When Jonas tries to explain, Asher just apologizes, assuming that will end the argument.
- And Jonas realizes that he's powerless to change anything.
- At dinner that night, Lily chatters on about her day.
- Gabe, who just started to learn how to walk, stumbles around the room saying "Gay!", which is the closest he can get to his own name.
- It's almost December again, which means Lily is going to become a Nine and finally have her own bicycle.
- Tomorrow, Jonas's Father says, the twin males will be born, and he will have to decide which one is sent Elsewhere.
- Jonas wants to know if he actually takes the twin to Elsewhere, but his Father says no, he just picks one and performs a Ceremony of Release and then hands the kid off.
- Lily wonders aloud: what would happen if the twin that was released went to another community, and both twins ended up with the same name, and then one day during a school visiting trip they got mixed up?
- And , she says, what if we all have a twin in another community, and we just don't know it?
- Lily's Father groans and sends her to bed. Kids these days and their silly ideas.
- The next time he sees The Giver, Jonas asks him about release.
- The Giver admits that he sometimes wishes he could be released, but he knows he's not allowed to do so until he trains Jonas.
- Jonas knows he can't ask for a release either; that's in the rules.
- The Giver then explains that they made those rules ten years ago, after the failure with the other Receiver.
- Jonas wants to know more about her. He asks her name, and The Giver reveals that it was Rosemary. He remarks that her eyes were "very luminous." He explains that she was very intelligent, very eager to learn, and that he felt love for her, just as Jonas experienced in the memory of Christmas morning.
- This emotion made it very difficult for The Giver to cause her any sort of pain. So for five weeks he gave her only happy memories.
- But the time came when he knew he had to do his duty. He didn't want to cause her any physical anguish, so he transferred only memories of emotional pain: a child taken from its parents, for instance.
- After that, Rosemary changed. She was no longer happy, and he no longer got to hear the sound of her laughter. One day, the old man says, she stood up at the end of their session, kissed him on the cheek, and left. She applied for release and he never saw her again.
- Jonas remembers what The Giver said about the memories that were released after Rosemary left. He realizes that he himself has an entire year's worth of memories, and asks what would happen if he were to, say, drown in the river. Or something.
- The Giver advises that he try not to do that.
- Then the old man thinks for a moment. He supposes that, if Jonas were to float off down the river, he could probably help the community with the pain of the memories the same way he helps Jonas deal with it now. But he has to think about that for a while, he concludes. In the meantime, Jonas should work on not drowning in a freak accident.
- Jonas starts to talk with The Giver about the twin that his father is releasing today. The Giver frowns; he wishes they wouldn't do that to a twin baby. But Jonas reminds him that it would be so confusing to have two identical people running around.
- He then says he wishes he could watch the ceremony, to see what happens to the twin who goes Elsewhere.
- The Giver tells him that he can watch the ceremony if he wants to. It's in the rules, after all, that he gets to ask any questions of anyone he wants.
- Jonas shrugs; it's too late now, he says, the morning's ceremony is already over.
- But The Giver reminds him that all ceremonies are recorded in the Hall of Records. If he wants, he can go watch a tape of what happened.
- With a quick request to his Attendant, the Giver gets the video pulled up on the screen inside his room.
- Jonas watches the video. In it, his father takes the twins and weighs each one on a scale.
- Jonas, who's taking the whole thing very casually, keeps making comments, and The Giver, who knows what's up, keeps telling him to be quiet.
- Jonas's father hands the heavier baby (six pounds) to a nurse to take back to the Nursery.
- Jonas remarks that this is the part where his father cleans up the other baby and "makes him all comfy."
- But then Jonas watches as his father… gives the baby a lethal injection to a vein in the forehead.
- Then, as though it's no big deal, he drops the dead baby down the garbage chute.
- Jonas is outraged.
- The Giver says he watched the tape of Rosemary's release, except he turned away after she asked to inject herself.
- Jonas, still raging, refuses to go home and see his father. He's crying, and The Giver, once again, says, "Be quiet," but this time in a comforting voice. He tells Jonas that no one can see or hear him sobbing. He also says Jonas can stay there for the night if he wants.
- Once the moral outrage at killing babies dies down a bit, Jonas is consumed with outrage that his Father has been lying to him.
- The Giver tries to explain that his Father was just following the rules, that he doesn't know how to act any differently.
- Jonas wants to know if The Giver has ever lied to him; the old man answers no, he never has.
- Then Jonas asks if Release is death for everyone, even the elderly. The Giver confirms that yes, it is. Even Fiona, who works with the Elderly, is being trained to do lethal injections. Because those people don't know how to have emotions, it doesn't mean anything to them.
- Once he calms the boy down a bit, The Giver explains that the two of them are the only ones with real feelings in the entire community. The problem with holding the memories, he says, is that it's lonely—memories are meant to be shared.
- The Giver says the two of them need to make a plan. They know that things can be different than they are now, because they've seen the past through the memories they share. Spending time with Jonas has made The Giver realize that things have to change. And he thinks there might be a way…
- In a brilliant, suspense-building shift, we don't get to hear their plan. We cut to the post-planning, where the two have come up with an idea.
- Jonas is sitting wrapped up in The Giver's robe, the kind the Elders wear. He knows that if their plan doesn't work, he will very likely be killed.
- Jonas asks The Giver to come with him, but the old man refuses. Jonas needs to escape to Elsewhere—knowing that he can never come back—and then the memories he's taken will be released to the community. The Giver hopes that, through these memories, the citizens will acquire some wisdom. He has to stick around to help them.
- Both Jonas and The Giver know that the Elders will try to pick a new Receiver, and quickly too, to take the memories and ease the burden. But The Giver knows that there isn't another one ready.
- Jonas reminds him that there's a young girl with light eyes, except she's only a Six. The fact is, the community will have to deal with the memories themselves.
- Besides, says The Giver, he's too old and weak to make the journey. He doesn't even see colors anymore, he admits, which really hits home for Jonas.
- Speaking of colors, Jonas would like to know more about what The Giver meant so long ago. He said that he "perceived beyond" when he was young, too, except it wasn't colors that he perceived.
- The Giver says that the only way Jonas will understand is if he transmits to Jonas the memory in question.
He's been holding on to it, he says, a bit selfishly. It's music, he says. He used to hear music.
- Of course, Jonas doesn't know what this is. But he refuses to take the memory from The Giver, insisting that the old man should keep it for himself.
- When Jonas finally goes home, he pretends everything is hunky-dory with his Father.
- Jonas spends the next day at school going over the plan in his head, which at last we get to hear about: for the next two weeks, as the December Ceremony approaches, Jonas will get ready to escape to Elsewhere. The Giver will transmit memories of courage to help him.
- Then, the night before the big Ceremony, Jonas will sneak out of his house and hide his bicycle and clothes by the river. Then he'll come to the Annex, where The Giver will be waiting for him.
- As the plan goes, his parents will wake up and find a cheery note about Jonas having gone for an early bike ride. They'll wait and wait, and, finally, they'll just leave for the Ceremony without him. No one will notice his absence all day because they'll be so wrapped up in the festivities.
- Meanwhile, The Giver, who typically does not attend the December Ceremony, would order a vehicle, send the driver away under some pretense, and hide Jonas inside the truck.
- By the time everyone has found Jonas's bicycle and clothes by the river, the boy will be long gone, and the community will turn to The Giver to help them through the crisis.
- The Giver will explain that Jonas accidentally drowned in the river, and then he will help them cope with the new memories.
- That's the plan. While he knows that The Giver needs to stay, Jonas still wants him to come along on the escape.
- The Giver explains that he will stay to help the citizens. After that, he says, he wants to be with his daughter—Rosemary.
- So they're convinced that their plan is going to work.
- Their plan definitely does not work.
- We cut to the image of Jonas, who has been "forced to flee" that very night, two weeks before the Ceremony, guiding his bicycle over the bridge in the darkness.
- What happened? Now we go back in time to find out.
- So Jonas is eating dinner with his family when his Father cheerily announces that Gabriel is going to be released the next morning. They just haven't been able to get him to sleep through the night when they brought him to the Nursery, so it's bye-bye for this little toddler.
- Now we cut back to Jonas, still crossing the bridge on his bike in the dark.
- Actually, it's not his bike; it's his Father's. He took his Father's bike because it had a baby seat attached to the back.
- Which means, of course, he took Gabriel, too.
- Before he stole the toddler, Jonas transmitted to Gabriel the memory of a rocking hammock. Fortunately, this kept the little tyke asleep and quiet while Jonas got them out of the house.
- As time passes, Jonas tires as he continues to pedal and pedal. When dawn breaks, he stops, puts the bike down, and has breakfast with Gabriel by the side of a stream.
- He hides them in the grass and they both sleep through the daylight hours.
- Days go by, and Jonas is still biking. He's gotten into a routine now of hiding in the day and traveling at night. Mostly, he worries when the low-flying search planes come by overhead, especially because he knows they have heat-seeking devices. (No, really, the text says "heat-seeking devices." Apparently Jonas learned about it in school.)
- When he sees the planes, Jonas tries to hold on to memories of cold, in the hopes that that will neutralize the heat-seekers.
- Jonas notices that his memories are fading a bit, which is what he and The Giver had expected: as he moves further and further away from the community, the memories should be released to the citizens and thus fade from his mind.
- As the days go on, the planes become less and less frequent. Finally, they stop altogether.
- As Jonas bikes further and further away form the community, the landscape starts changing. The roads are more makeshift, filled with ruts and stones.
- At one point, Jonas hits a stone and the bicycle turns over. Gabriel is fine, but Jonas has twisted an ankle.
- Yet Jonas is undaunted, and the little duo continues to travel.
- Since the search-planes aren't coming by anymore, Jonas starts to travel in daylight.
- The landscape becomes more and more rural. Jonas even sees a bird pass by overhead—the first he's ever seen in real life.
- As they move into forest-like territory, they see more and more animals. Jonas is happy about this, a fact only slightly dampened by their impending starvation.
- Right, about that… Jonas is running out of food. Amazingly, he goes Survivorman, makes a net out of Gabriel's blanket, and catches two fish from a stream, which they eat raw.
- He tries to conjure up memories of food, but they're dim and fleeting.
- Jonas takes a moment to ponder the fact that, had he stayed in the community, he would definitely not be starving right now. He made a choice, he realizes, and it was the wrong one.
- On the other hand, if he had stayed… well, Gabriel would have died. Jonas also would have starved in other ways, starved for color and emotion.
- Then Jonas encounters hills for the first time. On the one hand, he's all excited to see hills. On the other hand, he's on a bike and he has a sprained ankle, so this isn't exactly the best time.
- Then it starts raining. Again, this is fun as far as novelty goes, but that's about it. Now they're starving and wet and freezing.
- Gabriel, understandably, starts crying.
- Jonas does, too, but not for himself. He's not worried about saving himself anymore; he's just concerned about saving Gabriel.
- Jonas starts to feel that he's getting very close to Elsewhere. But he also starts to feel that he'll probably die before he gets there.
- Confirming the latter suspicion, it starts to snow. Jonas wraps the baby inside his jacket to keep him warm.
- He gets to a steep hill and, in the increasing snow, finds that he can pedal no further. He let's the bike fall to the ground and begins to walk.
- Then Jonas has the idea of using a memory to help—except he's not sure that, this far from the community, he still has the ability to recall a memory or to transmit it to Gabriel.
- But when he starts to think about sunshine, it works. Jonas tries to transfer the warmth he feels to Gabriel.
- That works for about thirty seconds or so before they're both freezing again. As he continues to trudge up the hill, he musters up all the memories he has of warmth and sunshine.
- As Jonas gets closer and closer to the top of the hill, he realizes that he's completely freezing, exhausted, and going numb. And yet, he feels happy. Joyous even. He's flooded with memories of Fiona, Asher, his family, and The Giver.
- He whispers to Gabe that they're almost to the top. He knows, he says, because he remembers it. This is a memory of his own.
- And then, Jonas finds the sled from his first memory, waiting for him at the top of the hill. He settles on to it, pulls Gabriel close to him, and feels hopeful as he begins to surge down the other side of the hill.
- Jonas struggles to stay conscious as they fly downwards. He knows that Elsewhere is waiting for him at the bottom of the hill.
- Looking ahead, Jonas can see lights and colors. He knows he's going to a place of love.
- Then, Jonas hears music for the first time. He knows they are others waiting for him.
- Jonas thinks for a moment that he hears music coming from behind him, too, back from where he came. "But perhaps it was only an echo."