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The Giver | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Father brings the newchild Gabriel to the family dwelling for extra nurturing. Lily gleefully points out that the little boy has pale eyes, like Jonas's. Jonas is annoyed by the comment, not only because it is considered rude to point out an individual's differences, but also because pale eyes are very rare in the community, where almost everyone's eyes are dark. Jonas considers, though, that the color gives a certain look to the person who has it: depth, as if one were looking into a clear river "down to the bottom, where things might lurk that hadn't been discovered yet."

As Lily coos over Gabriel, she comments that she might like an Assignment as a Birthmother. She thinks newchildren are cute and has heard that Birthmothers have an easy life. Her comment elicits an uncharacteristically sharp rebuke from Mother, who says there's "very little honor" in that Assignment. She tells Lily that the Assignment lasts for "three lazy years" and three births, then these women become Laborers until they enter the House of the Old. Father also points out that Birthmothers never get to see the newchildren, which are immediately put in the care of the Nurturers like him.

Listening to Lily's chatter, Jonas thinks that perhaps she should be a Speaker, the self-important individuals who are always sending out reminders that "hair ribbons are to be neatly tied at all times," or that "snacks are to be eaten but not hoarded." These public announcements are usually aimed at specific individuals. The reminder about snacks, for example, was meant for Jonas, who took an apple home with him after a bewildering experience. While using the apple in a game of catch with Asher, Jonas had seen the apple's appearance briefly change in midair. Yet when he caught it, it was the "same perfect sphere it had always been." This happened four times, and Jonas had brought the apple home to examine it and try to understand what happened. He never was able to figure it out.

Jonas shakes the memory from his mind, and the family returns to the quiet, reflective time that takes place as it does every night, "in the family unit, in the dwelling, in the community," as preparation for the next day.

Analysis

Chapter 3 is a deceptively uneventful chapter. Little happens other than Jonas's family welcoming the newchild, Gabriel, into their home. But Lily's conversation with her parents, along with Jonas's own thoughts, expose additional dark corners of their perfect society.

Up to this point, readers knew that family units are determined by the Elders, but there was no indication of where the children come from. In Chapter 3 it becomes clear that certain women are assigned as breeders, required to produce three children in three years. They never even see the children they give birth to and are not rewarded at the end of what is obviously a very crucial Assignment. Instead, they become Laborers for the rest of their lives, eventually entering the House of the Old when they are no longer able to work.

Jonas's thoughts reveal a few other disturbing details about this society. Apparently, no action is too small or insignificant to escape scrutiny. A loose hair ribbon is cause for a reprimand, as is the taking of an apple. The fact that such behaviors are even noticed means that every individual is under constant, relentless observation. There is even a subtle suggestion that people's thoughts, or perhaps reality itself, are somehow being manipulated by those in power. Jonas's quick visions of the changing apple, when it suddenly is no longer "a perfect sphere," is the first hint that things may not be as they seem. The fact that only Jonas appears to be able to see the shift also suggests there is something different about him.

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