The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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The Giver | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

The Giver introduces Jonas to the idea of pain by transferring another memory of sledding down a hill. This time, though, the memory ends with an accident and a broken leg. Jonas experiences pain so intense he vomits into the snow. When he awakens, he asks for a relief-of-pain pill and The Giver refuses. Dealing with pain is part of the training. Later that evening, in his sleepingroom, Jonas realizes that his parents and sister have never known pain, and the realization makes him feel desperately lonely. He dreams of "the anguish and the isolation on the forsaken hill."

Each day of Jonas's training now contains pain, such as a horrible memory of being neglected and starving. The Giver is always careful to end each session with a pleasant memory to balance out the suffering, but it is the pain that Jonas remembers. The Giver explains that these terrible memories are important in order to achieve wisdom that will prevent people from repeating the mistakes of the past. Jonas suggests that it would be easier if memories of pain and destruction could be shared. More people would have wisdom, and the burden on Jonas and The Giver would be less. But The Giver explains that people don't want the memories or the pain. They just want to be told what to do. Jonas angrily states that this isn't fair, and argues that the two of them should try to change things. But then he realizes that in this community, nothing ever changes.

At home, Jonas's focus shifts to Gabriel. The little boy is growing as he should, but is still unacceptably restless at night. Father worries that he may still be released, and Mother says it may be for the best. Father mentions in passing that a decision about Gabriel's release will be delayed because a Birthmother is about to have twin boys, and one of them will need to be released. It is Father's turn to make that decision, which he says will likely be made based strictly on birthweight. They "release the smaller of the two."

Jonas hopes that when the little twin is sent Elsewhere, he will be taken care of by Larissa, the gentle old woman he had bathed and who had recently been released. Then he offers to keep Gabriel with him that night, so his parents can get a night of unbroken sleep. The first part of the night passes uneventfully. Then Gabriel becomes restless, and as Jonas pats him on the back to comfort him, he recalls a lovely sailboat memory. Without meaning to, he begins to transfer the memory to Gabriel. The little boy becomes calm, and the image grows dimmer in Jonas's own mind. Jonas is startled by what has happened, but when Gabriel wakes again toward morning, Jonas purposely gives him the rest of the memory and the child once again is calmed. Jonas wonders if he should confess what he has done to The Giver, because the power frightens him and he is not yet qualified to pass on memories, but some instinct makes him decide not to tell.

Analysis

In Chapter 14 the role of The Receiver is explained in more detail. Readers learn just how much people have been willing to give up in exchange for a life that doesn't contain pain or regret or require them to do much more than fulfill the roles they are assigned. Jonas, now aware that he and The Giver are the only two responsible for all the memories and suffering of the world, becomes increasingly angry at the unfairness of it all. Only the two of them have the memories and wisdom required to make important decisions, which means they are, in effect, responsible for the well-being of the entire community. Even the Council of Elders appears only to be able to follow rules and guidelines—they don't have the experience or knowledge to make thoughtful decisions. This explains why a request for change languishes in committee, and why The Giver is called upon when something like the pilot flyover occurs. Jonas feels increasingly isolated the more he understands. His dream of "the anguish and the isolation on the forsaken hill" is a clear metaphor for his unique role in society, which he may find oppressive, as the current Giver has.

His experiences at home, though, foreshadow bigger challenges to Jonas's comfort within his community. Even if Jonas himself is still in denial about what "release" means, readers may have inferred that it is a type of euthanasia. Worse, releases are apparently decided based on criteria as meaningless as birthweight and perhaps, in the case of the Old, birth order. (The Giver's early comment about people being "scheduled for release" makes such a scenario very likely.) Mother's easy acceptance of the possible release of Gabriel, who stops her from getting a good night's sleep, is also disturbing. The life of the child, or of the twin who will be released, seem to mean little. Even Father says the choice of twin will be relatively easy, and that he will release "the smaller of the two." Such statements create a quiet sense of horror, because they are speaking of killing the innocent and helpless. Here, the image of Jonas's parents as wise and loving adults has been shattered.

Jonas may subconsciously be aware of some of this, which could be why he feels the need to intercede with Gabriel. But his discovery that night that he already has the power to give memories, and that Gabriel, with his telltale pale eyes, is able to receive, is significant. Jonas, who already has reached insights far more quickly than even The Giver himself had during training, may be an unusually powerful Receiver. Combined with his surprisingly rebellious nature, this suggests that he may be far less willing than others to passively do what is expected of him. His decision to not share his or Gabriel's power with The Giver is a clear indication that Jonas has begun to make his own choices and decisions, an ability almost unknown in his community except for the rarest of cases.

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