The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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The Giver | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Jonas's parents try to relieve his concerns about the coming Ceremony of Twelve. Father talks about many of the Ceremonies he has experienced, describing them in only positive terms, and triggering pleasant memories for Jonas as well. The Ceremony of One, for example, is the time when each of the 50 or so newchildren born every year receives a name and is assigned to a family. It is a time of great joy, and Jonas remembers when his own family "acquired" Lily after his parents' application for a girl was approved. At the Ceremony of Nine, all children are officially given their bicycles, which they will continue to use throughout their lives. The Ceremony of Twelve, just ahead for Jonas and his friend Asher, is the last and most important of the ceremonies. At this ritual, individuals are given the Assignments—their adult role in the community.

The Assignments are made by a group known as the Committee of Elders, the most important of whom is called The Receiver. The Elders are the community leaders; they are also responsible for choosing the individuals that make up each family unit and for establishing the rules by which everyone lives. Jonas's parents reassure him that the Elders carefully consider the skills and temperament of each person before making an Assignment. Father, for example, had shown an aptitude for working with little ones since he himself was very young.

Jonas is still worried, though, because he doesn't know himself what he would really like to do. He also thinks about people who are assigned to the night shifts because they have been evaluated as being less skilled than others. He worries about his friend Asher, who does not have any serious interests and might not receive a good Assignment. He is again reassured by his parents, who tell him that he needn't be concerned and that there are few times when people have been disappointed with their Assignments.

Jonas's parents caution him, though, that the Ceremony of Twelve signals a time of great change. Most people don't track their ages after that point, and individuals tend to lose touch with their old friends as they develop new connections with people in their Assignment groups. Training replaces play and recreation, which, Mother assures Jonas, becomes much less important. Jonas feels better after the talk, but realizes that he still has no sense of what his own Assignment will be.

Analysis

In Chapter 2 readers begin gaining greater insights into Jonas's community as the boy's parents talk to him about the changes he will encounter when he becomes a Twelve. Jonas eagerly absorbs these new bits of information. But for readers, many of those same details are vaguely disturbing and add to the subtly ominous mood that Lois Lowry began building in Chapter 1.

Much of the chapter focuses on the annual December Ceremonies, which are perceived by Jonas and his family as happy, festive, and important occasions. Behind these accepted rites of passage, though, are somewhat darker realities. For example, the description of the Naming Ceremony makes it clear that while families may be caring and supportive, the individuals in each family unit are determined by committees and chosen according to strict criteria. There is also a quick reference to the fact that before the Ceremony of One, newchildren are raised separately by Nurturers. They are identified by numbers, not names, and are assigned to families only if they have not been "released." The meaning of this word is still not clear, though readers may pick up on sinister overtones, given the earlier use of the word to describe a form of punishment.

The Ceremony of Twelve also seems to have an unsettling side. It is the last and most important of the annual rituals, but there is also the implication that it marks the official end of childhood. Friendships dissolve, and the focus shifts to training and work for the good of society.

Other details reinforce the strictly regimented structure of the community. The fact that children are not allowed to have bicycles until they are Nines is odd, as is the detail that each child is assigned one specific "comfort object" that is then taken away and officially recycled at the Ceremony of Eight. The objects, like elephants and bears, are called "soft, stuffed, imaginary creatures," not stuffed animals, because the word "animals" has a different meaning in this society; the creatures themselves apparently don't exist in reality.

The most important revelation of the chapter, though, is that society is run by leaders called the Committee of Elders. The group appears to have absolute authority over its citizens, carefully observing and evaluating individuals on an ongoing basis and dictating what happens in their lives. Although citizens can appeal the decisions of the Elders, the appeal process never results in actual change and appears to exist only to create the illusion that people have some say in what happens to them or how the community is run. Although there is no suggestion by Jonas's parents that the Elders are anything by wise and good, readers gradually realize that the citizens have very little freedom and are almost completely under the control of one governing group.

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