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The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Chapter 16

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 16 of Lois Lowry's novel The Giver.

The Giver | Chapter 16 | Summary



After receiving the memory of war, Jonas wishes he did not have to return to The Giver. He no longer wants the honor, the wisdom, or especially the pain of being The Receiver. The Giver, though, is kind to Jonas for several days afterwards, giving him happy memories. Some, like birthday parties, teach him the joy of being an individual. Memories of magnificent paintings in museums teach him about beauty. Marvelous experiences with the animals—which he now knows really existed—show him the wonder of the bond between animal and human.

Jonas asks about The Giver's favorite memory and is treated to the experience of a holiday gathering. The memory shows him a family larger than those in the community, a dog sleeping on the floor, candlelight and a glowing fireplace, and the opening of gifts. Afterwards, he is able to tell The Giver that he perceived warmth and happiness, and the feeling of a more complete family. He searches for a way to describe one other feeling, and The Giver provides the word "love."

When Jonas asks about the two old people he saw in his memory, The Giver also explains the concept of grandparents. Jonas considers how older adults in his village are not part of families. Once the children they raise are grown, the adults go to live with the other Childless Adults. Then, when they can no longer work, they enter the House of the Old where they are well cared for until they are released. Jonas suddenly realizes that once his own family unit is dissolved, he will no longer see his parents, and his own children and Lily's will have no idea who the "parents of their parents" were.

Jonas tries to convince himself that the way the community is set up is much more practical and "safe" than the world he saw in the memory. Candlelight and fire, for example, could be dangerous, and he sees why they were outlawed. He also senses that risk is associated with love. Yet he tells The Giver that he liked the light and warmth of the candles and fire, and that he wishes love still existed. The last idea remains with him, and when Jonas gets home that night, he asks his parents if they love him. They are amused by the question, telling him the word is terribly imprecise and almost obsolete. But they assure Jonas that they enjoy him and take pride in him. Jonas says he understands that he was wrong to use the word "love," but this is actually his first lie to his parents.

That night, he confides his thoughts to the sleeping Gabriel. Gabriel has been thriving since being with Jonas at night, and Father is confident that he will be named in two months and assigned to a family. Jonas whispers to the child that "things could change." He says there could be colors, and grandparents, and that everyone could have memories. In fact, he has secretly been giving more and more beautiful memories to Gabriel each night. As Jonas looks at the sleeping child, he adds one more thing to his list of what could be. He says there could be love.

The next morning, Jonas does not take his pill. This is against the rules, and even against the instructions he was given as The Receiver. But "something within him, something that had grown there through the memories," tells him to throw the pill away.


Chapter 16 continues to reveal what the community has sacrificed in order to achieve its safe, predictable way of life. The rules have resulted in the disappearance of grandparents, birthdays, holidays, pets, art, the pleasure of solitude, and the warmth of fire. Individuals are never singled out or celebrated. Family connections are temporary, established for the purposes of raising and teaching children. More tragically, the concept of love has been all but erased. Even Jonas's own nurturers/parents are unable to say they love him and don't appear to truly understand the meaning of the word.

The chapter also shows Jonas's own growing awareness of what the community has given up, and he beings to actively hide the thoughts and actions that reflect his thinking. He lies to his parents when they ask if he realizes why "love" is an inappropriate word, and secretly passes on dreams to Gabriel, who is the only person other than The Giver with whom he has a physical and emotional connection, because both are almost nonexistent in society as it exists. He also decides on his own to stop taking the pills that suppress the Stirrings. He wants the feelings of desire he vaguely remembers having. In fact, he seems determined to rediscover feelings and emotions of all kinds. Once again, he is demonstrating the ability to choose and make decisions on his own.

The Giver, though unaware of exactly what Jonas is doing, seems to be encouraging his newly defiant attitude. He guides Jonas's thought process with carefully neutral prompts and questions, but he never attempts to redirect the boy's ideas to those that would be more acceptable to the community. He even offers carefully selected words and phrases when Jonas struggles to express his thoughts; for example, he helps Jonas articulate that the family in the holiday memory seems more "complete." The Giver has also begun to express his own frustrations with society and his role within it more freely.

It is clear that Jonas is quickly changing from an innocent child who accepts the community's rules without question to a rebellious young adult who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. More importantly, he is changing from a Twelve who is almost indistinguishable from his companions to a unique, fiercely independent individual.

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