The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Chapter 20

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 20 of Lois Lowry's novel The Giver.

The Giver | Chapter 20 | Summary



Jonas becomes hysterical after witnessing his father's release of the newchild, experiencing the most intense emotions he has ever suffered. The Giver allows him to spend the night at the Annex, and Jonas continues to try to grasp what he now knows to be true: his Father is a killer. Old people and newborns are killed when the rules dictate they should be. Even his gentle friend Fiona is being trained "in the fine art of release." The Giver tries to help him understand that his Father and Fiona are not evil. "They know nothing," he tells Jonas, because "feelings are not part of the life" they've learned.

The Giver then says Jonas has helped him realize that society does not need to continue down this path. The two of them together can execute a plan that will lead to putting things right again. At first, Jonas says "there's nothing we can do. It's always been this way." The plan involves Jonas escaping the community, which will result in a year's worth of his memories being released. Jonas feels the plan can work, although success means he can never return to his home, and failure would probably mean his death. He considers, though, that if he stays, his life is "no longer worth living."

Jonas asks The Giver to go with him, but the old man says that he needs to stay behind to help the community deal with the torrent of memories that will return to them when Jonas leaves. Jonas first responds that they don't need to care about the others but quickly realizes he is wrong. Caring about others "was the meaning of everything." As Jonas prepares to return to his family, he asks The Giver how he first became aware that he was different. The old man smiles, and tells him that his own awareness began with the "hearing-beyond" of something called music.

Jonas returns home, where he and his Father continue to smile and lie to each other. The next day, Jonas goes over the escape plan in his head. In the middle of the night, before the December Ceremony, Jonas will leave a note for his parents telling them he's gone on an early morning ride along the riverbank. He will leave his dwelling, hide his bicycle and a folded stack of clothing along the river, and head to the Annex. There, The Giver will have arranged for a vehicle, saying he would be visiting the Elders in another community. Instead, he will take Jonas outside the community to begin his journey to Elsewhere. Later, he will announce that Jonas has been lost in the river and begin to help the community deal with the released memories.

Jonas tries once more to convince The Giver to come with him, but the old man tells him that when his work with the community is finished, he only wants to go be with his daughter: Rosemary.


After witnessing the horror of the twin's release, Jonas undergoes a dramatic change. He experiences violent emotions, ranging from horror to anger to bitterness, and momentarily develops a hatred for everyone except himself and The Giver. He hates his Father, whom he feels has betrayed him, and he despises the community that just waits to be given instructions and then follows them without question. Eventually, though, The Giver is able to help him understand that Jonas himself would have been like the others were it not for his being selected as The Receiver. Only the memories have enabled him to feel emotions and understand the implications of certain actions.

Jonas then makes a second huge emotional leap. He realizes he must show the courage of someone much wiser and older than himself and be willing to sacrifice his future for the greater good of the community. He will have to leave everything and everyone he knows behind, forever. It is a tremendous act of faith on his part. He doesn't know what lies waiting for him at Elsewhere, and he will never know if his sacrifice has really made a difference.

The part of the plan where Jonas leaves his bicycle and a folded stack of clothing by the river is an interesting detail on the part of the author as she moves the plot along. If Jonas had had an accident, and then accidentally fallen into the river, his clothes, his bicycle, or both would not have still been on shore. But leaving the bicycle and the carefully folded clothing seems to be meant as a message for the community Elders. Jonas could not request release, but he could find a different way to achieve the same result.

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