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The Giver | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

In school the next day, Jonas listens silently to the excited chatter of the other Twelves as they discuss their training. He can't, of course, share his own experiences. After school hours, as he rides with his friend Fiona toward the House of the Old and the Annex, she mentions that she is already learning so much, including that the Old sometimes have to be corrected with the discipline wand just as children do. Just before they part ways, Jonas looks at Fiona's hair and sees the quick flicker of change he'd noticed in the apple and at the December Ceremony two days before.

Jonas immediately asks The Giver if he can explain what happened. The Giver responds by asking the boy to call up the memory of the sled ride, but this time to look down at the sled itself. To Jonas's amazement he sees the same "difference" he noticed in Fiona's hair, and in the faces of the crowd at the ceremony. The Giver explains that Jonas is seeing red, a color. His explanation makes it clear that color, or at least the ability to perceive it, no longer exists in the world. He also explains that before people "went to Sameness," even skin tones were many different colors, and that scientists are still trying to "work the kinks out."

The Giver tells Jonas that as he receives more memories, he will eventually see all the colors, even as he gains wisdom. But at that moment Jonas is only interested in why colors disappeared. The Giver tells him that it was a choice, and that "we relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences." He says they gained control of many things but had to let go of others.

Jonas's reaction is immediate and fierce. He cries out that people should never have given up those things. The Giver is surprised by his outburst, saying that the same conclusion took him many years to reach. But then he thinks of a way to give help Jonas with the concept of color. He will give him the memory of a rainbow.

Analysis

The revelation that there is no color in Jonas's world is a shocking one. This means that all citizens see their world in shades of black and white, which is both a literal and figurative way of describing a society that lives under a strict system of right and wrong. What is more unsettling is that the systematic elimination of color was a choice, part of a decision made many generations ago to control all aspects of both the environment and society, and to do away with differences. Sameness has been apparent throughout the novel in the identical nature of families, the mandated clothing and privileges for different age groups, and the required rituals. But now readers learn that Sameness even extends to skin tones, the implication being that only one race of people now exists in Jonas's society.

The Giver reflects that in creating Sameness and eliminating differences, "we gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others." He doesn't specify either what was gained or lost, but readers are free to speculate. There is some suggestion that the original goal of Sameness was to simplify life, make work more productive, and eliminate sources of conflict. Level surfaces meant easier transportation. Climate Control allowed year-round farming. And on a more significant level, the elimination of skin tones perhaps meant that people could no longer judge each other based on the color of their skin.

But Sameness also means a loss of diversity and individuality—the things that metaphorically add "color" to the world. Nothing is unique in this society, with even families structured to be as similar as possible. As the Chief Elder said in the December Ceremony, the goal of everyone in the community is to fit in and curb any impulse that sets them apart. No one seems to realize that although sameness may be easy, efficient, and peaceful, it requires a willingness to lead a bland, predetermined life. The moment he has a basis of comparison, though, Jonas instinctively rebels against Sameness, and The Giver sees this as a sign that he will move quickly along the path to wisdom as he defines and remembers it.

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