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The Giver | Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

As Jonas and Gabriel continue on their journey, travel becomes increasingly difficult. Roads become poorly maintained, and then disappear. In a fall, Jonas injures his ankle, and using the bike becomes more challenging. Jonas becomes increasingly aware that Gabriel's safety depends entirely on his own continued strength. Despite the dangers, though, Jonas finds moments of exquisite happiness. He comes upon his first waterfall, and live animals he recognizes from memories. He hears birdsong for the first time. After a life of Sameness, he is "awed by the surprises that lay beyond each curve of the road."

The dangers, however, become more and more real. Now that they are far away from cultivated fields, food is scarce, and Jonas realizes that he is experiencing the feeling of starving. He tells himself that if he had stayed in the community, he would not be hungry. After wanting choice for so long, he worries that he has made the wrong one. But then he stops that train of thought. He knows that if he had stayed, he would have starved for feelings, for color, for love. And Gabriel would be dead. His choice had been the right one.

The weather changes, and Jonas and Gabriel are caught in two days of rain. While rain had been enjoyable in memories, this rain is different, harsher. Gabriel and Jonas are cold and wet, and Gabriel begins to cry. Jonas realizes it's because the little boy is hungry and terribly weak, and Jonas begins to weep. He is not afraid for himself. He only fears he will not be able to save Gabriel.

Analysis

As the journey continues and the search planes disappear, Jonas at first experiences happiness unlike anything he had known in his 12 years of life. He is in the real word, not one that is climate controlled, devoid of animals, or segmented into isolated communities. But as traveling becomes increasingly difficult, hunger and danger replace the joy. Jonas realizes that both he and Gabriel may not survive, and he experiences an emotional and mental crisis. He wonders if he was right to sacrifice security and comfort for the ability to feel emotion and see color. He thinks about his yearning for choice, and understands, perhaps for the first time, how choice brings with it the risk of making the wrong decision, and that a wrong decision can cause regret, suffering, and even death.

Still, Jonas realizes that there are different types of starvation, and that physical hunger is less destructive than emotional starvation. Only the possibility of death—Gabriel's, not his—is something that he can't face. But that reaction reveals greatness in Jonas. His fear is completely selfless, which means he has reached a level of compassion and empathy unknown in his community for generations: the ability to care about someone more than he cares about himself. In other words, love. In this way, Gabriel, the name of God's messenger in all major religions, saves Jonas.

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