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The Giver | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

The session continues, and Jonas tells The Giver that he had been interested in release because his father was releasing a newchild that day—a twin. He says he wishes he could watch, because he knows his father is a gentle man and likes the thought of seeing him make the little twin "clean and comfy." The Giver surprises him by telling him that, as The Receiver, he can indeed watch a recording of the morning's ceremony.

Jonas at first is hesitant, giving several reasons why perhaps he shouldn't. But The Giver keeps pushing him, and Jonas finally agrees. The Giver makes a request over the speaker, and a recording of the ceremony begins to play. Jonas is surprised to see that it takes place in a small, windowless room and begins to wonder aloud why it is not a larger ceremony. The Giver hushes him. Jonas then sees his father and an assistant arrive with the twins and weigh them. His father laughs when one twin is clearly of a lesser weight, making the decision of which to release simple. Jonas smiles when his father uses " the special voice he uses with Gabriel" as he talks to the smaller twin.

Jonas tries once more to speak, and The Giver again quiets him, forcing him to keep watching. It is at that moment that Jonas's father takes out a syringe, fills it with a liquid, and inserts the needle into a pulsing vein in the newchild's forehead. Still using the special voice, his father continues to talk to the newchild, saying he knows it hurts but that the veins in the child's arms are still too "teeny weeny."

Jonas waits for his father to make the child comfy, but stares in shock as they baby's limbs jerk, then go limp. The child's head falls to the side, eyes half open. Jonas recognizes the expression as the same one he saw on the face of the boy who died on the battlefield. Horrified, he realizes that his father had killed the newchild. His father then places the little body in a carton and loads it into a chute very similar to the kind used to receive trash at school. The last thing Jonas hears his father say is "Bye-bye, little guy."

The Giver turns to Jonas and calmly tells the boy that he himself watched Rosemary's release, and that is was his "last glimpse of that beautiful child." He could only sit, numb with horror, as Rosemary told the attendants that she wanted to inject herself. That part, though, he was unable to force himself to watch. His voice better, The Giver says that Jonas now understands release. Jonas, still in shock, feels "a terrible pain clawing its way forward to emerge in a cry."

Analysis

Readers have very likely figured out long before Jonas does that release is not simply a departure to a place called Elsewhere. It is death. But the revelations in this chapter are still overwhelming. Lois Lowry achieves this powerful effect by contrasting the apparent gentleness of Jonas's father and the unspeakable horror of what he does.

Father's task, simply put, is to kill a newborn because it had the misfortune to be born a twin and weighed a few ounces less that his brother. The fact that Father seems to feel no sadness as he carries out his assignment is frightening. It indicates that he feels no connection whatsoever to the child and is not considering the potential of the life he is snuffing out. He even laughs as he weighs the babies and is able to identify one with the lower birth weight, which makes the decision of which one to release simple. He then continues using the "special voice"—a soothing tone sprinkled with baby talk—as he euthanizes the child, suggesting that this voice is something he is trained to use and not a result of any real compassion. He even sends the little body down the chute with a cheerful "bye-bye, little guy." The chute, described as resembling a trash receptacle at Jonas's school, makes it that much clearer how little value society has placed on the child's life.

Jonas's reactions during the chapter reveal a great deal about his own thought processes. At the beginning, he seems to be finding reasons not to watch the tape. The curious, intelligent part of him wants to know what is involved in release. But deep down, he may not really want to learn the answer. He finally watches only after The Giver almost forces him to. Then, as Jonas observes the process, he keeps talking over the tape, trying to provide his own narration in which his Father is a gentle man making a baby clean and comfy in preparation for Elsewhere. Only when the child dies does Jonas finally accept what he has seen. From this point on, he will never be the same, and he will never be able to view his family or his community in the same way. It is the true emotional turning point for his character.

The last revelation of the chapter concerns what happened to Rosemary. She asked for death rather than have to continue to be the sole carrier of the miseries of humankind. But she also showed courage and a rebellious nature by insisting on giving herself the injection. This was one choice she would not allow the leaders of the society to make for her. The Giver is proud of her actions, even as he mourns her loss.

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