The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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The Giver | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

It is finally time for the Ceremony of Twelve. Elevens will be called to the stage according to their birth order number to receive their adult Assignments. Jonas, who is Eleven-Nineteen, will have time to enjoy some of the ceremony before it is his turn.

The ceremony begins with a speech by the Chief Elder, a community leader who is elected every 10 years. She tells the waiting Elevens that up to this point, they have spent all of their years learning to fit in, "to standardize your behavior and curb any impulse that might set you apart from the group." This year, though, is when they acknowledge differences, because those differences have determined their futures.

As each Eleven is called up, the Chief Elder gives a lengthy speech describing the person before announcing the assignment. Jonas is pleased to hear that Fiona is assigned as a Caretaker of the Old. When it is Asher's turn, the Chief Elder humorously recalls how Asher, whom everyone enjoys for his energy and sense of humor, struggled a little when he was young, especially with language. For example, he kept asking for a "smack" instead of a "snack," and was given what he asked for: a stinging smack with the reprimand wand. The boy had temporarily gone mute for a time rather than speak, but eventually learned the correct way to speak. He is assigned the title of Assistant Director of Recreation, and Jonas is thrilled for him.

The Chief Elder continues to award Assignments, and then the unexpected happens. She skips Jonas, going directly from Eighteen to Twenty. The crowd is immediately aware of the omission, and Jonas's groupmates avert their eyes. Jonas frantically tries to think of what he could have done to warrant the humiliation he senses he has brought on himself and his family.

Analysis

Chapter 7 is the first in which the society's emphasis on conformity is stated explicitly. Conformity is not a by-product of the community's laws, but a key goal of the community leaders. It is at the core of all rules and rituals, and provides the foundation for the children's education. An exception is made during the Ceremony of Twelve because it is in the best interest of the community to match citizens with the roles they are most suited for.

As though to offset this celebration of the individual, the Chief Elder makes a special point of sharing the story of Asher's errors with language. Although she presents the story humorously, it is clear that the boy was physically punished for his innocent errors, to the point that the trauma rendered him mute. Readers can see this as a type of child abuse, but the community sees only that the Elders' methods worked, resulting in a successful, contributing member of society.

Jonas's omission from the ceremony, therefore, becomes that much more perplexing. He would seem to be a model citizen, ripe for an important assignment. This unexpected twist signals a critical change that will dramatically affect Jonas's life.

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