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The Giver

The Giver Summary


Here you will find a The Giver summary (Lois Lowry's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Giver Summary Overview

Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy, inhabits a futuristic society where all negative emotions and experiences, such as pain, fear, and war, have been eradicated. Uniformity reigns supreme, with minimal competition, no prejudice, and choice is non-existent. At the age of twelve, community members are assigned jobs aligning with their abilities and interests. Life is strategically planned, involving ordained marriages, assigned children, and living arrangements for different life stages until they reach the House of the Old where they are eventually 'released', a euphemism for death. Jonas, living with his Nurturer father, Justice Department-working mother, and younger sister Lily, is unique due to his pale eyes and unusual sensory abilities, including being able to perceive color. As he approaches the Ceremony of Twelve, where he'll be assigned his life's work, he discovers he is the new Receiver of Memory, inheriting the community's collective past. The community, having abandoned memories of pain and emotion in their quest for tranquility, needs Jonas to carry these memories to avoid repeating past mistakes. From the Giver, the current Receiver, Jonas receives memories, transforming his understanding of his world and longing to share this newfound richness with his community. In addition to his duties as the Receiver, Jonas assists his family in caring for Gabriel, a new child with sleeping trouble. As Jonas becomes closer to Gabriel, he learns from the Giver that 'release' is equivalent to death and becomes determined to transform his community. The plan is for Jonas to escape to Elsewhere, dispersing his vast memories into the community, while the Giver aids the community in navigating their newfound emotions. Circumstances force Jonas to leave prematurely to prevent Gabriel's imminent 'release'. Surviving harsh conditions and evading search planes, Jonas finds a sled on a hill, reminiscent of his first received memory. With Gabriel, Jonas embarks on a thrilling sled ride towards twinkling lights and music, concluding their journey with the hopeful anticipation of a welcoming community.

chapter 1 - 2

Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy, is anxious about an upcoming significant event. He recalls an incident of true fear when an unknown aircraft violated community rules by flying overhead. Jonas's society is regulated and strictly controlled, as shown by the pilot's severe punishment of "release". Jonas determines that his current feeling is apprehension rather than fear. Precision in language is highly valued in Jonas's society. The family, consisting of Jonas, his parents, and his younger sister Lily, engage in a daily custom of sharing their feelings. Lily expresses her frustration over a visiting child who disobeyed play area rules. Through discussion, her anger is lessened. Jonas's father, a Nurturer, discusses his difficulties with a weak baby who is at risk of being released. There is a possibility of the family caring for the baby, but adoption is prohibited. We discover that the government assigns spouses and each household can only have one male and one female child. Jonas shares his concerns about the forthcoming Ceremony of Twelve, during which he will be allocated a profession and start his adult life. In Jonas's community, every December, children progress to the next age level regardless of their actual birth dates. Fifty children are born annually, and ceremonies differ for each age group. At the Ceremony of One, babies are placed into family units and given a name along with their birth number. Jonas's father admits to secretly using the name Gabriel for the weak baby, hoping it will aid his development. Rule-breaking is rare, but does occur occasionally. For instance, older siblings unofficially teach younger ones to ride a bicycle before they receive their first bicycle at the Ceremony of Nine. Jonas's parents assure him that the community's governing body, the Committee of Elders, will assign him a suitable career based on their observations of his skills and interests. Jonas's father knew he would be a Nurturer due to his love for babies. Jonas expresses worry over the future of his friend Asher, who lacks serious interests. His parents reassure him, but warn that he may drift from his childhood friends as he enters the next phase of life. Finally, Lily requests her "comfort object", a stuffed elephant referred to as an "imaginary creature". Jonas once had a similar "creature", a bear.

chapter 3 - 4

Jonas's father brings home a new child named Gabriel, who shares the unusual trait of light eyes with Jonas. Lily, Jonas's sister, comments on this, which is considered impolite in their society, as differences are not usually highlighted. Lily reveals her desire to become a Birthmother, a role that is not well-regarded, as they are pampered for a few years, produce children, and then work hard without ever seeing their offspring. Jonas remembers an admonition from the Speakers for taking an apple home, something frowned upon in their society. This incident occurred when Jonas noticed an inexplicable change in the apple while playing with his friend Asher. Despite his efforts to understand the apple's transformation at home, he found no answer. In the subsequent chapter, Jonas and Asher complete their compulsory volunteer hours. These hours allow children aged eight to eleven to explore various roles within their community. Jonas cherishes these hours for the freedom they offer. He works at the House of the Old where he bathes an elderly woman called Larissa. Despite the community’s strict rules against nudity, exceptions are made for the old and new children. Larissa tells Jonas about Roberto's release, a festive event in which the person's life is celebrated before they walk through a special door to get released. The actual process of release remains unknown to Larissa, and she wonders why children aren't allowed to witness it.

chapter 5 - 6

In the morning, the family shares their dreams. Jonas typically doesn't dream, but one morning he does. His dream is about asking his friend Fiona to undress in the bathing room at the House of the Old. This dream brings out strong feelings of desire in Jonas. His mother explains these are his first Stirrings, common for his age. Jonas is given a pill to suppress these feelings, a treatment his parents and some of his friends also follow. Although Jonas misses the pleasurable feelings from his dream, they disappear quickly after taking the pill. On the first day of the Ceremony, Jonas, his mother, and Lily talk about different milestones for each age group. Jonas's father holds the newborns to be named in the Naming Ceremony. Despite not meeting the requirements to be assigned to a family, Gabriel is given another year, as Jonas's family is caring for him. They've all agreed not to become attached to Gabriel. A child named Caleb is introduced at the Ceremony, to replace a family's lost child of the same name. The community performs the Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, getting louder as they chant the name. The rest of the ceremonies take place, including the giving of bikes to the Nines and cutting the hair of the Tens. The Elevens speculate about their Assignments and discuss the possibility of applying for Elsewhere if they're not satisfied. But Jonas can't imagine anyone not fitting in. He trusts the Committee of Elders to make appropriate decisions about spouses and family placements.

chapter 7 - 8 - 9

The Chief Elder started the Ceremony of Twelve with an announcement about a previous failure in choosing the Receiver of Memory. Each child, assigned a number at birth that shows their birth order, was given their future job assignment. Jonas, number Nineteen, watched his classmates collect their roles. His friend Asher was given the role of Assistant Director of Recreation, after a speech recalling his bright, cheerful personality and his struggle with using the correct language. There was a humorous story about how he once mixed up "snack" and "smack", leading to an unfortunate incident. Everyone happily accepted their assignments, including Asher who had shown a significant improvement in his language skills. However, when the time came for Jonas to receive his assignment, he was skipped, causing him great distress and confusion. The Chief Elder finally explained at the end of the ceremony that Jonas was chosen for the prestigious role of Receiver of Memory. The current Receiver, an old man with pale eyes like Jonas, needed a successor. The Chief Elder explained that the last selection had failed miserably. Jonas was chosen unanimously by the Elders, despite rigid selection criteria including intelligence, integrity, courage, and the ability to gain wisdom. His role would involve experiencing real pain, a foreign concept in their community, and required the "Capacity to See Beyond," which Jonas initially doubted but then recognized within himself. The crowd applauded Jonas, chanting his name with increasing volume. He felt a mix of pride, gratitude, and fear. Immediately, Jonas felt isolated as his training hadn't started yet but he was treated differently, even at home. His parents shared their honor at his selection but hesitated when he asked about the previous Receiver. They informed him that her name was now Not-to-Be-Spoken, a grave insult. Reviewing the rules of his new role, Jonas found out he was free from rules about rudeness, couldn't share his dreams, was only allowed medication for non-training related illness, couldn't apply for release, and was allowed to lie. Realizing he'd have less free time, Jonas worried about his friendships. The idea of experiencing pain and being allowed to lie, both foreign concepts, also troubled him. He wondered if anyone else in his community had permission to lie.

chapter 10 - 11

Jonas arrives at the Annex of the House of the Old for his first training day as the new Receiver of Memory. He is escorted into a private living space filled with an unimaginable number of books, a stark contrast to the single reference volumes in each community household. The current Receiver warmly greets Jonas and explains that the training process involves transferring all memories of the past to him. Jonas is puzzled about the importance of these stories and questions why he can't just listen to them leisurely while still holding a regular job. The Receiver clarifies that the memories are not just personal memories, but rather those of the entire world, passed down from past Receivers. These memories help the community to plan for the future. The Receiver likens the burden of these memories to a sled slowing down due to increasing snow accumulation. Jonas doesn't understand this analogy as he has never seen snow or a sled. To clarify, the Receiver decides to transmit a memory of snow to Jonas. He instructs Jonas to lie down and switches off the speaker, an action only he has the authority to perform. He places his hands on Jonas's back, allowing Jonas to experience the sensation of cold, snowflakes, and the thrill of sledding downhill. After the sensory experience, Jonas expresses a wish for the existence of snow and hills. He questions why the Receiver doesn't use his powers to restore them. The Receiver responds that honor and power don't necessarily equate. He then shares with Jonas a memory of sunshine, introducing Jonas to the concept of pain through the mild discomfort of a sunburn. Exhausted from the day's activities, the Receiver informs Jonas to refer to him as the Giver going forward.

chapter 12 - 13

Jonas, now used to holding his first memory, adheres to his new role's rules without issue. His family, accustomed to his infrequent dreams, seldom asks him about them. His friends are too engaged in sharing their own experiences, allowing Jonas to listen quietly without explaining his own unusual training. Biking to the House of the Old, he converses with Fiona about her Caretaker of the Old training and notes her hair changing color like the earlier apple incident. He brings this up with the Giver, who tells him he's starting to see color red, a trait things used to possess along with shape and size. Jonas finds red beautiful and expresses disappointment over its removal from their community, gaining praise for his wisdom from the Giver. Seeing colors briefly in his daily life excites Jonas. He feels it's unfair for color to be removed from society and yearns for the power of choice. But he also understands that choices can lead to mistakes. His frustration grows as he fails to make his friend Asher see colors or understand the significance of her toy elephant. Nonetheless, his training continues, and his curiosity grows. The Giver reveals he once had a spouse, but his role makes family life challenging due to the inability to share memories or books. The Giver also explains that their role is to carry painful memories that the community cannot handle. Jonas, noticing the Giver's pain, wonders about its cause and about what's beyond their community. In response, the Giver decides to share a painful memory with Jonas.

chapter 14 - 15 - 16

The Giver shares a memory of a sled ride, but this time Jonas experiences the pain and nausea of a broken leg. Despite the pain persisting, Jonas is not given relief and returns home early, feeling alienated by his inability to share his experiences. Over time, Jonas receives increasingly painful memories, with moments of pleasure woven in. After experiencing starvation, Jonas questions the need for these memories. The Giver explains they bring wisdom, referring to a situation where he stopped a community decision to increase family sizes by recalling the pain of overpopulation. Jonas suggests sharing these memories with everyone, but the Giver explains that the community prefers to avoid such pain, hence the respect for the Receiver's role. Jonas hopes for change, but the Giver contends that the status quo is unlikely to shift. Gabriel, the newchild, is progressing but remains restless at night. Jonas’s dad fears Gabriel might have to be released. He also shares news about possible release of one of the identical twin boys expected by a Birthmother. Puzzled about the fate of the released, Jonas requests his parents to let Gabriel sleep in his room for shared responsibility. When Gabriel cries, Jonas, recalling a delightful sail memory from the Giver, unintentionally transmits it to Gabriel, calming him down, leaving Jonas in doubt about his actions. One day, Jonas finds the Giver in immense pain and is asked to help alleviate it by receiving a disturbing memory of a deadly battlefield. Jonas, after the trauma of war memory, contemplates not returning to the Annex but still does, receiving memories celebrating individuality and human connections. He's shown a memory of a Christmas family gathering, introducing him to the concept of grandparents and love. This leads Jonas to ask his parents if they love him, which they dismiss as an imprecise term, preferring to use words like enjoy and pride. Feeling misunderstood, Jonas reassures Gabriel that in a better world, there could be love, colors, and grandparents. Subsequently, Jonas decides to stop taking his morning pill.

chapter 17 - 18

A month after Jonas quit his daily pills, he experiences Stirrings again with enjoyable dreams that induce some guilt. Despite this, he can't let go of the intensified emotions brought by these Stirrings and his recollections. He notices his emotions are much stronger than what others in his community feel. On an impromptu holiday, he declines to join his friends in a play mimicking war, an act he finds cruel. He walks away from his friends, aware they can't comprehend his deep feelings or reciprocate his affection. At home, seeing Gabe, who has started to walk and talk, uplifts him. His father mentions the forthcoming release of one of the twin babies due to be born. Jonas inquires if his father will personally send the infant Elsewhere, to which his father denies. He will only conduct the Release Ceremony for the lighter twin and bid farewell. The other child will be fetched by someone else from Elsewhere. Jonas's sister Lily wonders about two twins sharing the same name, one here and one Elsewhere. Next day, Jonas questions the Giver about his thoughts on release. The Giver admits he contemplates it during immense pain but can't apply for it until Jonas is fully trained. Jonas is also forbidden to request release, a rule implemented after the previous Receiver's failure. Upon Jonas's request, the Giver shares the tale of Rosemary, the failed Receiver. She was an intelligent and enthusiastic learner who he loved dearly, much like he loves Jonas. Initially, Rosemary enjoyed her training with pleasant memories that made her laugh. However, she craved for harsher memories. Reluctantly, the Giver gave her memories of loneliness, loss, poverty, and fear. After a particularly tough session, she kissed the Giver goodbye and was never seen again, having applied for release that day. Jonas, aware that he can't ask for release, inquires about the consequence if he accidentally drowned in the river, taking a year's worth of memories with him. The Giver alerts him about the catastrophic outcome: the community receiving his memories, unable to cope with them. He ponders if he could assist the community like he assists Jonas but needs more time to think. Meanwhile, he urges Jonas to avoid the river.

chapter 19 - 20

Jonas shares that he's interested in understanding the process of release because he witnessed his own father release a newchild. The Giver informs him that he can access any information as the Receiver, even viewing his father's recorded release ceremony. Upon viewing it, Jonas is horrified to see his father euthanize the weaker of two twins and dispose of the body. This forces Jonas to acknowledge the true nature of release. In his grief and shock, Jonas refuses to return home, unable to reconcile his father's lies about release. He also struggles with the knowledge that Fiona, a friend, participates in the release of the Old. The Giver reveals that most members of their community don't feel emotions the same way Jonas and he do. Drawing from this shared revelation, they decide that the community needs to change and the memories must be shared. Formulating an escape plan, Jonas and the Giver decide that Jonas will leave the community and his memories will return to the people. Despite Jonas inviting the Giver to join him, the Giver insists on staying behind to help the community manage the memories. He explains that he lacks the strength to embark on the journey with Jonas and that he's lost the ability to see colors. He reveals that his unique ability was hearing beyond, specifically hearing music, which he had kept to himself. In preparation for Jonas's escape, the Giver plans to transfer memories of courage and strength over the next two weeks. Jonas will escape on the eve of the Ceremony, leaving behind a set of clothes by the river. The following day, the Giver will help Jonas escape to another community under the guise of a visit. To cover Jonas's disappearance, the Giver will suggest that Jonas was lost in the river. Once Jonas is gone, the Giver will help the community cope with his memories. Finally, the Giver shares that he'll then be able to join his daughter, Rosemary.

chapter 21 - 22 - 23

Jonas hears distant singing and music from his previous home. Fearful for the baby Gabriel's imminent release, he prematurely initiates his escape, taking food and his father's bicycle. This act breaches several community rules. They cycle throughout the night and hide during the day from pursuing planes. To help Gabriel sleep and evade heat-seeking technology, Jonas uses his memory of exhaustion and intense cold. The environment starts to alter. Jonas hurts his ankle as the terrain becomes uneven and encounters waterfalls and wildlife, unfamiliar in his life of uniformity. His joy at the beauty is tempered by concern about their survival as no cultivated land is in sight. He manages to catch fish and forage for berries but it's barely sufficient. He acknowledges his choice to leave exposes them to the risk of starvation, but staying would mean a life devoid of authentic feelings and Gabriel's death. Jonas endures cold, hunger, and pain, hoping to reach Elsewhere soon. The onset of snowfall makes cycling impossible. Jonas struggles to recall warmth from the sun and shares the memory with Gabriel to help them ascend the steep hill. When he forgets the sun and is numbed by the cold, the happy memories of his friends and the Giver encourage him to continue. At the hilltop, he finds a sled and navigates it towards the illumination of distant houses. He is certain they would be welcomed in these houses where love is celebrated and memories are preserved. As he moves forward, he experiences singing and possibly hears music from behind.

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