The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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The Giver | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Jonas rides through the community, looking for his friend Asher. He is hoping they can spend time together while completing some of the volunteer hours that are required of citizens once they become Eights.

Jonas reflects on how nice it is to have "freedom of choice" about where the volunteer hours are fulfilled, because the rest of the day is so carefully regulated. He also thinks about how some children quickly find an area of interest and spend most of their time volunteering in that corresponding Center. Jonas is a bit concerned that he himself has moved from Center to Center over the years, never finding one thing that he wanted to devote all his time to.

Jonas finally sees Asher's bicycle outside the House of the Old and goes in to join his friend. The House of the Old is serene and comfortably furnished, and the old people who live there seem happy, content, and well cared for. Asher and a gentle girl named Fiona are already involved in bathing two of the residents, and Jonas begins to help a woman named Larissa with her own bath. He thinks about how the rules against viewing another's nakedness don't apply to newchildren and the Old, and he likes how relaxed, peaceful, and "free" Larissa looks as he bathes her.

Larissa tells Jonas that the residents celebrated the release of a man named Roberto that morning. The ritual began with the telling of the story of his life. Then she and the others toasted Roberto, chanted an anthem, and then listened to his farewell speech before "they let him go." Jonas, always curious, asks what actually happens during an actual release and where the Old go when it happens. Larissa says that no one knows—people just walk through a special door in the Releasing Room, a look of great happiness on their faces.

Analysis

In Chapter 4 some benefits of the community's rules are revealed. All children are required to put in four years of volunteer services to the community once they become Eights, but they are given free choice about where they will volunteer. This approach allows children to explore as many different jobs as they like, and it also allows those with a special interest, skill, or talent to focus on that area immediately. People seem quite happy with and suited to the assignments they eventually receive, so this part of the system seems to work very well.

The treatment of the Old also seems to be extremely positive, with the elderly living in comfortable surroundings and treated with the utmost tenderness and respect. It is clear that even the young volunteers have been well trained to see old age as something natural, and to hold the Old in the highest esteem.

Still, there are sections of this particular chapter that contribute to the darker overtones that Lois Lowry continues to layer onto the story. As Jonas rides through the community, buildings are described in very utilitarian ways: the Nurturing Center, the Rehabilitation Center, the Childcare Center, and the Hall of Open Records. There is no mention of parks, museums, or theaters, or anything that speaks to creativity. The community must also be relatively small because its citizens are able to get everywhere on bicycle.

The second element of the chapter that may raise alarms is the description of Roberto's release. It is described as a celebration, but no one, including the Old, seems to know what happens when the person being released walks through the door of the Releasing Room. There also seems to be no apparent reason for Roberto to have been released. He is in good shape, both physically and mentally, so the reason for the transition is unclear.

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