The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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The Giver | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

When Jonas next visits The Giver, the question of release is still on his mind. He still assumes that release is nothing more than leaving the community, so he is not surprised when The Giver says he sometimes wishes he could put in a request for release. This is not possible, though, until the end of Jonas's training. Jonas comments that as the new Receiver, he can't ask for release, either. The Giver explains that this is a new rule, put in place after the "failure" 10 years earlier. Jonas begs The Giver to finally explain what happened to the girl who preceded him.

The Giver agrees, even sharing the girl's now-forbidden name: Rosemary. He describes her as intelligent, eager, serene, and excited to learn. He also tells Jonas that he loved her, just as he now loves Jonas. The training, though, went horribly wrong, lasting only five weeks. The Giver began with happy memories, but Rosemary insisted on receiving the painful ones, too, knowing it was her responsibility. The Giver couldn't bear to give her physical pain, but he did share memories of loneliness, neglect, poverty, hunger, and terror. The excitement and laugher soon left the girl, who was stunned by what she learned. At the end of a particularly hard session, Rosemary had kissed The Giver's cheek, left the room, and gone to the Chief Elder to request immediate release. The Giver never saw her again.

Her memories, however, came rushing back to the people of the community. They suffered, just as Rosemary had. The Giver, devastated by his own grief and angry at the situation that had led up to Rosemary's request, did nothing to help the community deal with the powerful emotions they were experiencing. Jonas wonders what would happen if he himself were to be lost in the river, as little Caleb was, and a year's worth of memories were released. The Giver says it would be devastating for the community. After a moment, though, The Giver says that perhaps this time he could help the citizens deal with the memories, just as he had helped Jonas. His eyes become troubled, and he says they will speak more another time. Jonas, meanwhile, feels that the story of Rosemary was not such a terrible thing after all, though it had saddened The Giver. He is quite sure that he himself would never ask to be released, even if he could.

Analysis

The fact that Jonas thinks the incident with Rosemary "didn't seem such a terrible thing" shows that in his mind, the girl simply chose to leave the community. He is not picking up on the terrible grief of The Giver, which suggests that what happened to Rosemary was something far more devastating than her giving up her position as Receiver and choosing to leave. Jonas's reaction is somewhat suspect, though. He is an exceptionally perceptive and compassionate boy, and he loves The Giver. It's possible, then, that he is refusing to interpret what he is learning in his continued effort to avoid dealing with the idea of release.

The conversation, though, does trigger "an interesting concept" for The Giver. He indicates that if something were to happen to Jonas, this time he might be able to control its impact on the community. He obviously does not want to lose the boy, whom he loves, so he must have something more complex in mind. He tells Jonas he needs to "think about it some more," and that they will talk again at a later time. The implication is that The Giver may have stumbled upon a means of changing the society that has isolated him from others and taken away those he loved.

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