Study Guide

The Giver Chapter 13

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Chapter 13

  • 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.

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