This book is a science fiction-type novel about a boy named Jonas who lives a so-called perfect world where everything is controlled by strict rules. This novel questions what is right or wrong for society, and how differences and choices make life good. Lois Lowry wrote many books including the Anastasia series. The title comes from the friend Jonas finds in his instructor. Jonas is assigned to an important position in the community and is the only one who learns the truth about the past.
Jonas: The main boy. He can see things that no one else can (no, not like dead people) and is told the truth about his world.
The Giver: He is the one who instructs Jonas. He becomes Jonasís best friend.
Lily: Little sis.
Asher: Buddy to Jonas, he is kind of a doofus, but nice.
Father: He is a good dad. He works taking care of newborns in the nursery.
Mother: Yup, sheís the mom, who does typical mom-like things and works for the Justice Dept.
Fiona: Jonasís friend.
Gabe: The baby Jonas saves.
Jonas lives in a freaky world where there are big-time rules and no one thinks for themselves. Everything is the same Ė there is no music, no color, no pain.
Jonas is assigned the job of Receiver of Memory, a big deal. He goes to see the Giver and begins to learn all about the way things used to be, like the way our world is now. Some things are great, some things suck, but nothing is the same. The more Jonas learns about having choices and the bad things that happen in his world, the more he wants to escape.
Finally, with the help of the Giver, Jonas leaves, taking his baby brother, Gabe, with him.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
- Jonas lives in a "community" of strict rules.
- Jonas sees a plane and feels curious but nervous Ė pilots arenít allowed to fly over the community. An announcement comes on the loud speaker that the pilot, who messed up, will be "released."
- Being released is a big deal Ė the biggest punishment.
- There are rules about language. Asher, Jonasís buddy, isnít careful about words Ė he mixes up certain words like snack and smack. Jonas is very careful about what he says.
- December is when all the different age groups have ceremonies, like graduations, to the next year.
- Jonas is nervous about the upcoming December ceremonies when he will find out what job he has.
- At dinner, Jonas and his family have to "share their feelings."
- Lily, his little sister who is seven, says she was mad because some kids came to visit her school from somewhere else and didnít obey the rules.
- After talking this out with her parents, Lily realizes that she shouldnít be mad, just know the visitors were different. She says she is sorry.
- Jonasís dad works as a Nurturer, taking care of little babies. Thereís a new baby that isnít doing well and "the committee" (the decision-makers in the community) talks about "releasing him" (yeah, you get the picture).
- "Release" is a punishment most of the time. The only times itís not, is when old people are released after they have lived a full life, and when a "new-child" is released, which is sad because of all the things the kid might have done.
- Lily suggests keeping the new baby, but this is forbidden, since families can only have two kids.
- Father says that he sneaked a look at what the new-childís name will be (babies get the names at the One-year-old ceremony when they are presented to their new families), Gabriel.
- Father knows how anxious Jonas is to find out what his job will be at the 12 ceremony.
- Rules are hard to change in the community. Kids get bikes at 9 (there are no cars), their hair is cut a certain way, etc. At 12, jobs are assigned.
- A lot of kids get assigned to jobs they already have experience in from being a volunteer, or things they are naturally good at.
- The family gets ready for bed. Lily, with her "comfort object" (like a blanket or stuffed animal), is reminded that when sheís 8, she has to give up the stuffed elephant. Jonas has a bear that he gave up. He says the bear and the elephant are "imaginary" creatures. HmmmÖ
- Jonasís dad brings Gabe home so he can be better looked after.
- Lily says Gabe, like Jonas, has light eyes. Everyone else has dark eyes in the community except one girl who is five.
- Itís rude to say things like "oh, you have light eyes" because it calls attention to something different.
- Lily says maybe Gabe had the same birthmother that Jonas did.
- Lily says maybe she will be assigned the job of birthmother.
- Mother says that itís not a good job, three years, three births, and then off to do hard work.
- At 8, you start to do volunteer stuff. Jonas jokes with himself that Lily could be a Speaker (the one that announces things over the loud speaker).
- Once, Jonas and Asher played catch with an apple and Jonas saw the apple change. It went from the same color everything is, like grey, to being different.
- Jonas kept the apple, which he wasnít supposed to do, but he couldnít find anything unusual about it.
- Jonas thinks about the kids he knows and what they are good at or what jobs they might be assigned.
- As he rides his bike, he goes past different buildings Ė the Childcare Center, the Nurturing Center, Food Distribution, the House of the Old.
- Asher and Fiona are at the House of the Old, doing work. They all bathe some old people.
- Itís relaxing watching the bathing Ė people arenít allowed to be naked except when they are old.
- An old lady talks about the release of some old guy named Roberto, who was cool. They told all about his life at the ceremony and then he walked into "the release room."
- No one knows where people go when they are released, except maybe the committee.
- Kids canít go to the releasings.
- People have to tell their dreams at breakfast. Jonas never says much.
- This morning, though, Jonas remembers his dream. He had a sort-of sexy dream about Fiona.
- After breakfast, Jonas stays behind and his mother says that his dream was the beginnings of "stirrings" and that now he has to start his medication. Seems like the pills keep his "desire" in check. People take the pills their whole lives except when they are old.
- Itís the day of the ceremonies.
- All the other ceremonies take place, kids get their bikes, new babies are given to their families, kids get their long hair cut, etc.
- Finally, itís Jonasís turn. The Twelves get their job assignments. They are told their jobs and "thanked for their childhoods."
- Asher is the Assistant of Recreation.
- Fiona is a Caretaker of the Old.
- They skip over Jonas.
- Finally, they talk about Jonas.
- Jonas is made Receiver of Memories.
- This involves physical pain, which no one experiences anymore.
- Jonas can "see beyond," like with the apple.
- Jonas is freaked out.
- The Twelves hang out together, but Jonas feels different.
- There had been another Receiver years before, but she didnít work out, and no one ever saw her again.
- Jonas has dinner with his family. His mom and dad are proud of him.
- Jonas reads his packet of information about his job.
- There are a list of rules saying when he has to go to the little building where he will work, what he has to do, and how his life will be different.
- Jonas is now different from everyone else because: he can ask any question of anyone, he canít say anything abut his work, he canít tell his dreams, he canít take medication if it has to do with his work, he canít apply for release, and he is allowed to lie.
- Jonas is pretty surprised by these rules.
- Jonas and Fiona bike to work.
- Jonas goes to the annex behind the House of the Old.
- He is let into a locked room Ė there are no other locks in the community.
- In the big room, there are tons of books that Jonas never knew existed.
- An old guy with light eyes comes in Ė he has been the Receiver for along time. Now, itís Jonasís turn.
- He says the job has aged him. He says he has to give Jonas all the memories he has of the whole world.
- Jonas didnít even know there was anything outside the community.
- The old guy says that the memories weigh him down. He tells Jonas about what itís like to go sledding. This means nothing to Jonas.
- The old guy turns off the loud speaker (itís always on).
- The old guy gives Jonas a memory of snow.
- First, Jonas feels nothing. Then he gets the feeling of snow.
- Even though his eyes are closed, he can see this other world where thereís snow, and heís about to sled down a hill. Jonas didnít even know the word hill, so itís all new to him.
- He sleds down the hill and has a good time.
- Then heís back with the old guy, who is now relieved of that memory. Now, it is Jonasís memory.
- In the community, there is Climate Control, so the weather is all the same.
- Jonas experiences sunshine
- In fact, everything is the same. Sameness is a very big deal in the community.
- Jonas wonders about the pain he will have to deal with. The old guy has him experience a sunburn and Jonas says ouch.
- After that memory is done, Jonas is glad to have it, even though it hurt.
- Jonas asks the old guyís name, and he says The Giver.
- After sort-of avoiding dream questions at breakfast, Jonas talk with Fiona.
- As she goes inside to work, Jonas sees something change about her.
- He asks The Giver, who says that Jonas is starting to see color, which doesnít exist in the community.
- The apple was red, Fionaís hair is red, etc. The Giver tells him to think about the sled, and, indeed, it is red, too.
- The Giver says that color was once everywhere and that even people were different colors. But then Sameness happened.
- The Giver explains that the people made the choice to have everything be the same.
- Jonas blurts out that they shouldnít have.
- The Giver gives Jonas a memory of a rainbow to help him understand color.
- As the days go by, Jonas learns the words for colors and stuff.
- Jonas realizes that if everything is the same, then there are no choices.
- Even though itís safe in his world, Jonas thinks about people choosing their clothes, their jobs, etc.
- Jonas has the memory of being in the jungle, watching elephants. Up until then, Jonas had thought they were imaginary animals.
- That night, Jonas tells Lily that her comfort object is an elephant and that the creatures actually were real.
- Lily thinks he full of it.
- Jonas asks the Giver if he has a wife. The Giver says how hard it is to have a relationship since he canít say anything about his work or anything.
- The Giver had a wife, but it didnít work out and now she lives with the Childless Adults.
- When the other Receiver, who was let go, the memories she had went with her. Once the Giver gives the memory, it stays with the Receiver.
- Sometimes, Jonas finds the Giver hunched over in pain and is told to go away.
- Jonas wonders about what else is out there in the world.
- He asks the Giver what causes him pain. The Giver says itís time for Jonas to know.
- This time when Jonas has the sled memory, he breaks his leg at the bottom of the hill.
- Jonas has to feel the pain without getting any medication.
- Jonas limps home Ė his leg isnít really broken, but it feels like it is.
- Jonas realizes that no one else has felt pain.
- The memories almost always had pain them Ė in one, Jonas was starving.
- The Giver gives Jonas a good memory of sailing on a blue lake.
- Jonas asks why they must be the ones to have these painful memories.
- The Giver says it gives them wisdom.
- Jonas wonders what wisdom you get from hunger. The Giver tells how once there was talk of having more than 2 kids per family, and the Giver remembered hunger and warfare, so he advised against increasing the population.
- When the plane had flown over the community, the Giver had advised not to shoot it down, because he remembers when fear brought destruction.
- The Giver says that if everyone had the memories, then they would be burdened.
- Jonas says they could apply for a change of rules, but the Giver says that this was all decided a long time ago.
- Meanwhile, Gabe is growing. Father hopes that after all the attention heís been given, the committee wonít release Gabe.
- Mother says maybe itís best, since she canít deal with the lack of sleep.
- Lily asks if they can have another baby visit if Gabe goes away.
- Father says no, since itís rare to have a babyís future this uncertain for this long.
- Father says there is a release coming soon, since one of the birthmothers is expecting twins. Father is next on the list for picking which one stays.
- Jonas wonders where the other one will go, there is an Elsewhere.
- Jonas asks to have Gabe sleep in his room that night.
- When Gabe cries in the night, Jonas pats his back. Without realizing heís doing it. Jonas remembers the sailing memory as heís touching Gabe, who is then quiet.
- When Gabe wakes again, Jonas thinks about the calm sailing again on purpose and this works to quiet Gabe.
- Jonas now has no memory of the sailing.
- He wonders if he should confess to the Giver.
- Jonas knows Gabe isnít supposed to be Receiver nor is Jonas supposed to be the Giver.
- Jonas is scared.
- When Jonas gets to work, The Giver is in so much pain, he asks Jonas to take some.
- He gives Jonas a memory of war.
- Jonas doesnít want to go back to work, but he has to.
- The Giver reminds Jonas that there are good things, too. Jonas knows about birthday parties and paintings and stuff.
- Jonas asks the Giver what his favorite memory is. The Giver gives it Ė it is Christmas Eve, with presents, and family, and lights.
- When Jonas is asked by the Giver to describe the scene, he says family and warmth were the two big feelings, and that there were Grandparents.
- The Giver explains Grandparents.
- Jonas then talk out loud about life in the community Ė when you grow up and are married off, you donít keep in touch with your parents, you donít even know what happens to them, you focus on your life and have kids of your own.
- Jonas asks what the feeling he canít describe was from the Giverís Christmas memory.
- The Giver says Love.
- Jonas says that now the Giver doesnít have his favorite memory. The Giver says he has others that have similar feelings, like Love.
- Jonas says that he wishes that the Giver could be his Grandparent. That the family in the memory seems more complete.
- Jonas says that the feelings were good, but he knows that there is danger in that memory, like the fire in the room.
- Jonas asks his parents if they love him. They are shocked. They thinks that the word doesnít really mean much. They say they "enjoy" him.
- When Jonas says he gets this, itís his first lie to his parents.
- Since Jonas can comfort Gabe, the baby sleeps in Jonasís room.
- That night, Jonas whispers to Gabe that things could be different. That there could be love.
- The next day, Jonas does not take his pill. Jonas feels that the memories have made something change, that he is growing, so he throws the pill away.
- There is a holiday in the community, so people can do what they like.
- Jonas is psyched. He rides his bike to find Asher.
- Jonas hasnít taken his pills in a month.
- He has sexy dreams.
- Jonas now sees things in color, like trees and flowers.
- Jonas has deep feelings.
- Jonas watches some kids play a game that he now realizes was a game of war.
- When Jonas is "hit," he actually has the memory of the real war he experienced.
- Asher is pissed that Jonas messes up the game.
- Fiona asks Jonas to go for a bike ride.
- Jonas thinks Fiona is pretty but knows that he is different.
- Jonas knows he loves his friends, but they canít love.
- Lily talks about her holiday.
- Father had to bring the "discipline wand" home, in case Gabe misbehaves.
- Father says that he has to release one of the twins the next day. Jonas asks if his dad will actually take one of the babies Elsewhere, but his Father says no, he just waves goodbye.
- Lily wonders if the baby will live Elsewhere with a different name but be exactly the same.
- Mother changes the subject by saying maybe Lily will be assigned the position of Storyteller when she is 12.
- Lily says maybe everyone is a twin and that Elsewhere there could be a whole other set of them.
- Jonas asks the Giver if he thinks about being released.
- The Giver says he does when heís in a lot of pain.
- They talk about how they canít be released. The Giver says the rule was made that the Receiver canít be released after the mess-up with the Receiver who was let go.
- Jonas asks the Giver to tell him what the deal was with that other Receiver.
- The Giver says she was this awesome young woman, Rosemary, who was smart and wanted to learn. The Giver says that he loved Rosemary and he loves Jonas.
- After Rosemaryís training started, the Giver hated to give her painful memories, so he gave her five weeks of good stuff, merry-go-rounds, kittens, picnics. But she had to get the bad stuff, too, and she got a memory of a child being taken away from its parents, and loneliness.
- After that, everything was different, because she knew loss and pain.
- One day, she gave the Giver a kiss and a hug and asked to be released.
- Jonas says "itís against the rules." But the Giver says it wasnít at the time.
- Jonas asks what would happen if something happened to him, since he has a years worth of memories. They talk about what would happen if Jonas fell into the river, even though heís a good swimmer. The Giver says all his memories would be gone and the Giver would have to deal with the other people and their feelings. The Giver says he guesses he would help the community if Jonas went away, but that they would talk about it later. Meanwhile, he says that Jonas should stay away from the river.
- Jonas tells the Giver about his father releasing the twin. The Giver says he wishes that didnít happen.
- Jonas says he wishes he could watch the release. The Giver says he can Ė that itís in his rules.
- The Giver asks if he wants to see a record of the release.
- Jonas says yes, the Giver intercoms the Speaker, and the video screen comes down.
- The video shows a small room where Jonasís father brings the twins, weighs them, takes the smaller one, injects something into its soft-spot (on his head) and kills it.
- Jonas keeps waiting for what his dad had told him happens, that the baby gets all cleaned up, but it is just horrible, and the baby jerks around and dies.
- Jonas remembers the scene of war.
- Then he knows his father killed the baby.
- The Giver says that Rosemary said she would give herself the shot. The Giver didnít watch.
- Jonas cries.
- Jonas doesnít want to go home. The Giver says he can stay the night but that no one can hear him cry.
- After the Giver tells the Speaker to let Jonasís family know that heís spending the night, Jonas mimics the Speakerís voice saying, "Yes sir. Iíll do whatever you say, sir. Iíll kill people, sir, etc."
- The Giver says they donít know anything so itís not their fault.
- Jonas canít believe all this stuff Ė itís so terrible. He asks about Fiona and the Giver says she already is trained in releasing and that she was not raised to feel.
- The Giver says that once upon a time, everyone felt things. And now, they can make a plan to change things.
- After talking for a long time, Jonas thinks that their plan might work, but if it doesnít, he will be killed.
- The Giver says that Jonas has to go alone, even though Jonas wants the Giver to come with him.
- The Giver says Jonas must escape, but can never come back. He says the people will have to deal with Jonasís memories, and maybe that will help them be less controlled.
- Jonas really wants the Giver to come with him, but the Giver is not strong enough Ė the Giver says that he doesnít even see colors anymore. This makes Jonas really sad.
- Then the Giver says there is a thing called music, and he will give that to Jonas before he goes, but Jonas says he wants the Giver to keep it.
- Jonas goes home, lies about his day, and listens to his dad lie about his. At school, Jonas goes over the plan in his head.
- In the next weeks, the Giver would transfer courage and strength memories to Jonas. Then, before the December ceremony, he would sneak out of the house. If he were caught, heíd make something up.
- It would take everyone a while to figure out he wasnít there at the ceremony.
- The Giver would order a car since he sometimes used them to go to other places in the community. Jonas would hide in the vehicleís trunk with food enough for a couple of weeks.
- By the time people figured out that Jonas was not there, he would be well on his way Elsewhere. The Giver would come back, pretending he knew nothing.
- They would fine Jonasís bike and clothes by the river and have a ceremony of loss.
- At the end of this plan, Jonas had asked the Giver once more to come with him. The Giver said that he had to try to change the community.
- The Giver says that, after that, he wants to be with his daughter.
- Jonas didnít know he had a daughter and the Giver says her name was Rosemary. The Giver says he loves Jonas.
- They thought everything would work, but things get messed up.
- It turns out that Gabe is going to be released, which of course is not what Jonas wants.
- Jonas runs away in the night, hoping the Giver can hear his silent goodbye. He takes Gabe with him. They go all night and sleep during the next day.
- The planes fly over them, always on alert. Jonas knows they can use heat-sensors to find them, so he thinks of snow and transfers it to Gabe so they stay cold.
- Jonas thinks his memories arenít as strong as they were.
- Finally, many days and nights go by and the planes stop coming.
- As the landscape changes, Jonas sees how different the roads are, the trees are, he falls off his bike and hurts himself.
- They see a bird and Gabe thinks itís a plane.
- They have no food. Jonas remembers the word starving and how easily everything was delivered in the community.
- But he is happy.
- Then the rain comes, and they are cold, wet, and hungry. Jonas worries about saving Gabriel.
- Things really suck. Itís cold and snowy and they are weak.
- Jonas trudges up a big hill and searches for something, anything, to make things better.
- Jonas canít transfer anything anymore.
- Jonas walks up the hill some more. Heís sure thereís something he remembers.
- As he thinks about the Giver, he finds the strength to keep going.
- Finally, he finds the sled from his memory.
- He and Gabe ride the sled to the bottom of the hill, where Jonas is almost sure he can hear music. He knows that people are waiting for him and the baby to come home.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- What is perfection? Is it Sameness? Difference?
- What are the roles that the Giver plays? He is Giver, Grandfather, and friend to Jonas, and is especially giving in his love and help to free Jonas.
- How does pain fit in with reality? Is it necessary to have pain to understand goodness and happiness?
- Would you rather have choices or have everything decided for you? Do you agree with Jonasís decision to escape?
- Is the "community" really safe, as they say? It seems that there are many ways in which an individual is not safe (if they donít weigh enough, if they mess up, if they question too much).
- Did the Giver mean to give Jonas the sled memory as a means for escape? Perhaps this was the Giverís plan all along.
- Strength can come in many ways Ė Jonas never got the last transfers of strength from the Giver. He had the courage he needed all along.