Study Guide

The Giver Chapter 1 Summary

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Chapter 1

  • 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' 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' 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' 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' 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' Mother and Father send Lily away so they can speak with Jonas in private.

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