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The Giver | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 6 begins with Jonas's family getting ready to attend the December Ceremonies, where they will be joined by every member of the community. Jonas thinks about how each December Ceremony brings something new and good. The youngest children get changes in clothing or hairstyle that help them become increasingly independent. Eights are able to begin volunteering. Nines get their bicycles, signaling freedom to move farther from the family unit.

This year, the Ceremony of One, or the Naming Ceremony, is unusual in two ways. First, baby Gabriel is not taking part. Having not developed as quickly as expected, he would normally have been labeled "Inadequate" and released. But Father went before the committee and was able to get Gabriel reclassified as Uncertain, giving him a reprieve for another year. Jonas is glad of this, because otherwise Gabriel would have been released and they would never see him again.

Another atypical element this year is the inclusion of the Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony. This ceremony is to celebrate the assignment of a child named Caleb to a family whose "first Caleb" had been "lost in the river" when he was four. The community had mourned him for a full day with the Ceremony of Loss, during which the child's name was murmured in ever softer tones, as though the community was releasing him from everyone's collective consciousness. But today, the community is reversing the ritual, saying Caleb's name more and more loudly, as though the original child were returning.

The Naming Ceremony continues, and Jonas notices that one of the newchildren is given the name of Roberto, the same name as the man who was recently released from the House of the Old. Other than that, Jonas begins to lose interest in the proceedings until it is Lily's turn to go on stage. He also notices when a Nine named Fritz gets his bicycle and immediately walks it into a podium. The entire audience cringes, because errors such as these reflect on the parents' guidance and "infringe on the community's sense of order and success."

During a break between ceremonies, Asher confesses his nervousness about his Assignment. He tells Jonas a story of a boy who'd been unhappy with his Assignment and had swum "across the river" to a new community. Jonas is skeptical, but Asher insists that the rules allow a person who is not comfortable with an Assignment to request release and be sent Elsewhere. According to Asher, the boy who made the request was gone the next day, without a Ceremony of Release.

Jonas still has reservations about what Asher says. He doesn't see how anyone could be unhappy with an Assignment because "the community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made." Even the Matching of Spouses, which, like all decisions, are made by the Committee of Elders, can take years. Jonas is quite certain that the Assignments he, Asher, and the other Twelves receive will absolutely be the right ones for them.

Analysis

Chapter 6 highlights how much value this society places on conformity. Children progress with their age group, no matter when they were actually born, and are taken through developmental stages at exactly the same time. They dress alike, have identical hairstyles, and take part in the same activities (other than their chosen volunteer hours). Daily rituals are completed at the same time, in the same way, by all of the family units, and the community as a whole takes part not only in the December Ceremonies but also in the Ceremony of Loss, the Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, the Ceremony of Release, and likely countless others. Differences or failures to conform are a matter of shame, with something as small as Fritz's awkwardness with his bicycle evoking a strong negative response from the audience.

Asher's comments to Jonas about the boy who asked for release are another sign that any departure from rules and traditions is frowned upon. Although Asher sees the story as a hopeful one that would allow him to pursue his real interest should his Assignment not be to his liking, his comments include the unsettling detail that the boy was "here today, gone tomorrow." Asher also uses the term "Elsewhere" to describe where the boy went—a term Jonas used earlier in the chapter when he considered where Gabriel would go. The vague term (like "release") raises more uncomfortable questions in readers' minds.

Another intriguing detail has to do with idea of "replacement children" and the recycling of names. Readers already know that approximately 50 or so children are born each year; that family units consist of two parents, a boy, and a girl; and that the population of society remains relatively constant. When the older Roberto was released, a newchild immediately received his name. One explanation could be that the Elders release as many people each year as there are newchildren born, perhaps based on nothing more than an allotted time in the community. But one thing is certain: in this society, there is little importance placed on individuals—each one is an interchangeable entity, easily replaced.

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