The Giver Summary

Lois Lowry

The Giver

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The Giver Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a utopian society in which “Sameness” has replaced pain, but has also eliminated emotional depth. Utopia, it seems in Lois Lowry’s 1993 young adult novel The Giver, is an illusion; in reality, the society is dystopian. Jonas has been chosen as the member of society who will inherit the role of the Receiver of Memory, who is charged with storing all of the memories from the times prior to Sameness. This is done so that should there should come a time when history must be looked to for assistance in making some decision faced by the society, the information will be available. Jonas is put into conflict by the new emotions that he must deal with as he receives memories of the past. He struggles with good versus evil and wonders if they are actually dependent upon one another. His society, or the Community, as it is called, is devoid of climate, color, and memory as part of the attempt to have structure and order that will promote equality above individuality. The Giver received the Newbery Medal and also frequently appears on lists of the most commonly challenged books in America.

As the story begins, Jonas is nervously awaiting an annual rite called the Ceremony of Twelve, where one’s life’s work will be assigned. Jonas’ parents are not his biological relations, as babies are genetically engineered in the Community. His father is a Nurturer, whose job it is to care for the babies, and his mother works for the Department of Justice. Jonas is told that the Elders who assign careers to the children are always right in what they select. While the ceremony is taking place, Jonas finds that his name has been passed over, and eventually he finds himself the last one remaining to receive an assignment. This is when he finds out from the Chief Elder that he is to become the Receiver of Memory. This assignment is one of very high status and leads to Jonas being distanced from his friends and classmates, including his good friends Asher and Fiona. He receives a set of rules to follow that allows him no time to spend with friends. Contrary to the usual rules of the Community, these rules allow him to lie and to hide his feelings from his family.

Jonas’ training as Receiver of Memory allows him access to books that others are not privy to.  Others have just schoolbooks and a rulebook that each family is permitted. The present Receiver of Memory has Jonas refer to him as the Giver. His role is to transfer memories of the past to Jonas. Other people in the Community have no knowledge of the past. Adding a note of uncertainty to Jonas’ training, Jonas learns that the Giver at one time had an apprentice named Rosemary. Neither the Giver nor Jonas’ parents will tell him what happened to her. In time, Jonas discovers what has become of Rosemary and others who did not have a place in the Community.

A baby that is failing to thrive at the Nurturing Center where Jonas’ father works is brought home by the father. His name will be Gabriel if he gains enough strength to later be assigned to a family. Jonas feels a connection to the child, and realizes that the baby is able to receive memories. If the child does not get stronger, he will be released from the Community and taken to what is referred to as Elsewhere. Others, such as those who do not follow the rules, and the elderly, have been taken there, as well as Rosemary, the apprentice. Jonas wonders about Elsewhere, and asks the Giver about it. The Giver shows him a video in which Jonas’s father is seen injecting the smaller of a pair of twins with poison and disposing of the infant in a trash chute. Two community members cannot be identical, thus one needed to be eliminated. As it turns out, there is no Elsewhere; it is simply a term used for eliminating those not wanted by the Community.

Jonas does not want to return home, as he considers his father to be a killer. The Giver tells Jonas that the people of the Community have no ability to know that what they have been doing is wrong, because of their lack of memories. Rosemary was eliminated not by the Community but at her own hand. She could not tolerate the memories of the past, and so poisoned herself. The Giver and Jonas decide that society has gone astray and that things must change. To do this, Jonas must leave the Community, which would result in its memories being returned to the people. The Giver tells Jonas that he cannot leave with him, as the people will need the Giver to help manage the memories, lest they destroy themselves. It is then revealed that once the Community is newly organized and his service no longer needed, the Giver will take his life, like Rosemary, who was his daughter.

A plan is put into place for Jonas to escape and for the Giver to make it seem as though he has drowned, to minimize search efforts. Jonas, however, rejects the plan when he discovers that Gabriel is to be killed the following morning, and he flees with the baby. They are near death when they reach an area that Jonas interprets as the border of Elsewhere. They continue to a sled atop a hill and ride it towards a house that has love, lights, and a Christmas tree. Jonas hears what he believes to be music, although it is the first time he has experienced the sound. The ending of the book is ambiguous. The sled ride to a place that seems to be filled with happiness could symbolize an optimistic future, but there is also a danger that such a ride could represent a premature ending.