The Giver | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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The Giver | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

The Chief Elder quickly follows up the main ceremony by apologizing to the audience, to Jonas, and to Jonas's family for the anxiety she has caused them. She invites him on stage and tells the audience that Jonas has not been assigned. He "has been selected." Jonas is to be the new Receiver of Memory.

The audience is astonished. The role of The Receiver is the most honored position in the community. Only one exists at a time, and that person is responsible for training his or her own successor. It is at that moment that Jonas notices in the audience a man he has never seen before: a very old man with eyes as pale as his own.

Before he can even wonder about this, the Chief Elder goes on to explain that the selection of the new Receiver was critically important, because the last selection had been a failure too painful to remember. The new Receiver had to be elected unanimously, she continues, and there could be no uncertainty whatsoever.

The Chief Elder then lists the five qualities The Receiver must have. The first two are intelligence and integrity, which Jonas has always displayed. The third is courage, because parts of the training will cause unbearable pain. The forth is wisdom, which Jonas will acquire in his training. And the last, which even the Chief Elder does not understand, is called the Capacity to See Beyond. She asks Jonas if he can explain it. At first, Jonas doesn't know what she means, but he then remembers when the apple briefly changed before his eyes. As he remembers this, the audience before him also changes, though just for a moment.

Jonas leaves the stage, and the audience begins chanting his name. He is grateful for their support, but he feels some fear about what his life is about to become.

Analysis

Before this chapter, The Receiver was referred to only once, as being the most important of the Elders and the one who makes the most critical decisions. In Chapter 8 readers learn a bit more but are still not clear exactly what The Receiver is or does. Readers don't know what kinds of memories are being referred to, or why they are important.

One notable detail in this chapter is the Chief Elder's admission of failure. In a society where perfection is required, this confession by a community leader must have been shocking to those listening. But it suggests that even the Elders are ashamed of their imperfections and for having jeopardized the smooth transition from one Receiver to the next.

Another detail, possibly very important, is that the old Receiver has pale eyes, just as both Jonas and baby Gabriel do. Earlier, Jonas had described pale eyes as appearing to be able to see down to the bottom of a clear river, "where things might lurk that hadn't been discovered yet." This raises the question of whether pale eyes are actually unique to those with the Capacity to See Beyond, and therefore a way of identifying potential Receivers. Because light-colored eyes are a recessive trait, they may even signal that the community's scientists purposely try to engineer the birth of potential Receivers. If so, this may be why Jonas's father was able to obtain a reprieve for Gabriel.

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