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The Giver | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

The community is given an unexpected holiday. As Jonas heads off to find his friends, he thinks about how not taking his morning pill, combined with memories from The Giver, has changed the way he perceives the world. He enjoys the pleasurable dreams that come at night, and he can also see all colors of the spectrum. His feelings are heightened, and he knows they are unique to him rather than the feelings that "every evening, in every dwelling, every citizen analyzed with endless talk."

He finally locates Asher and Fiona, who are engaged in a game with other children. They are playing "good guys and bad guys," but Jonas realizes to his horror that they are actually playing a game of war. They don't realize, of course, that they are pretending to inflict or suffer hideous pain. Jonas begs them to stop and tries to explain to Asher and Fiona what war is. But Asher is only annoyed that Jonas has ruined the game and makes no attempt to understand what Jonas is trying to tell him. Fiona offers to ride with Jonas by the river, but although he still appreciates her gentleness and beauty, he realizes that the time for a relationship has passed.

Jonas is overwhelmed with a sense of loss. He feels that his childhood, his friendships, and his "carefree sense of security" are all slipping away. He wishes he could make his friends understand what he knows, or return the love he feels for them, but he knows they can't without the memories.

In the family dwelling that night, Jonas's mood brightens when he sees Gabriel, who is learning to walk. This is a cause for celebration, but Father now brings a discipline wand home each night in case the newchild misbehaves. Father mentions that he wants to get a good night's sleep because the twins will be born the next day and he will have to prepare one for the Nurturing Center and perform a small Ceremony of Release for the other. He smiles as he describes how he will make the second newchild comfy and then "wave bye-bye." Jonas asks if this is when someone from Elsewhere comes to get him, and Father says that it is.

Analysis

Although Jonas relishes the depth of feeling and heightened sensations he now experiences, he realizes in this chapter just how much he has lost, and how lonely his life will be. It is exactly the kind of isolation The Giver had warned him about. It also forces readers to compare Jonas's life before training with The Giver to his life now. Jonas at the beginning of the novel led a predictable, regimented life, but he was content and seemed happy. He had friends and he felt well taken care of within his family unit. He knew what was expected of him and others within the community. As The Giver once commented, his world was well ordered and painless.

Now, though, he experiences the full range of emotions and understands pain and suffering. He questions rules and guidelines he never wondered about before and has begun to realize that there are serious flaws in this society. Even as readers agree with his conclusions, it's impossible not to wonder if he, personally, in some ways was better off prior to being selected as The Receiver. Before he understood love, he couldn't want it. Before he knew about colors, he didn't miss them. He had no reason to feel anger or frustration, longing or discontent.

Despite his growing awareness of reality, though, and his willingness to challenge everything he knows, Jonas still does not question the concept of release. He continues to cling to a vision of someone from Elsewhere coming to welcome the individual who is leaving the community. His attempt to get his father to confirm his expectation that someone is coming for the released twin has an almost desperate quality to it, as though he is blocking off an idea too difficult to accept. Perhaps if he truly believed his notions of release and Elsewhere, he wouldn't need to ask.

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