THE GIVER is a haunting story about Jonas, a 12-year-old boy, who lives in a utopian society in which all choices are
made by a Committee of Elders. The community is highly structured; there is no pain, no color, and no strong emotions. At
the beginning of the novel, Jonas is approaching the Ceremony of Twelve in which he will receive his Assignment, or his career
Lois Lowry has created a world that, while seemingly unbelievable, transports the reader into a future world of “what
if.” The character of Jonas is very strong. The story is written from his perspective. We learn through his thoughts
how he feels about his friends, his family, his life; and we become very attached to him. When he learns that his Assignment
is that of the Receiver, the most important member of the Committee of Elders, we are apprehensive with him.
As the story unfolds, we learn that, to become the Receiver, Jonas must report to the current Receiver every day after
school. The Receiver is very old and bears the burden of all the memories of the society from “back and back and back.”
He will give to Jonas these memories; hence, Jonas calls him “the Giver.” As the Giver and Jonas go about their
job each day, Jonas receives pleasant memories of snowfalls and extended families (things he has been unfamiliar with until
now). He also receives, in ever-increasing amounts, memories of pain, from the sting of a sunburn to the almost unbearable
pain of being a soldier during wartime.
Jonas’ character becomes increasingly deeper, while those around him become more superficial. He realizes that
without these memories, everyone in the community is missing out on the fundamentals of life. After a year of receiving memories,
Jonas and the Giver decide that the only way for the members of the community to have a real life is to have those memories.
Therefore, Jonas must go away. The Giver explains, “If you get away, if you get beyond, if you get to Elsewhere, it
will mean that the community has to bear the burden themselves, of the memories you have been holding for them.”
The tension builds as the story unfolds to the climax. Jonas and the Giver devise a plan whereby Jonas can safely leave
the community. However, he must revise the plan when he learns that the baby his family has taken in is scheduled to be “released”
the next day. Jonas has learned that instead of going to a wonderful place called “Elsewhere,” being released
is actually murder by injection. Jonas bravely takes the baby and leaves the world he has known all his life in search of
someplace beyond. The ending is subject to interpretation; the reader is never sure whether he reaches Elsewhere or if he
Either way, this story will find a place in the reader’s mind. Thoughts will return again and again to the
message that, when we find our world to be a little too full of sad and painful memories and events, one alternative might
be to not really feel anything at all. I think every reader will appreciate our society, imperfect as it is, much more after
reading this novel.
Lowry, Lois. 1993. THE GIVER. New York:
Random House. ISBN: 0440237688.