The setting of “The Giver” is a world in which there exists no pain, no war, and very little emotion. In this utopia, everything is as pleasant as possible. Birthmothers give birth to “newchildren” and never see them again. These newchildren then move to the Nurturing Center, then to a family unit, and then together with the other “Childless Adults.” When they become too old or infirm, they are “released” – although they don’t realize it, those who are released are actually killed.
At the beginning of the novel, Jonas is a young boy who is nervous about the Ceremony of Twelve, when he will receive the Assignment, or job, that he will spend the rest of his life doing. Jonas often perceives flashes of “change” when he looks at an object; he does not realize that he is perceiving color, which disappeared once the community went over to “Sameness.” At the ceremony, Jonas is chosen to become the new Receiver, a prestigious Assignment that consists of keeping all of the old memories of the community from before the time of the “Sameness.”
The Giver transmits memories to Jonas – memories of fear and joy, of happiness and despair. These memories are filled with colors and emotion, both of which are lacking in Jonas’s world. Jonas becomes very close with the Giver and frustrated with the world that he lives in.
The Giver then tells Jonas about the last Receiver, his daughter, who became overwhelmed by all of the memories and begged to be released. When she was, the memories that she had gotten were dispersed to the rest of the community. Because Jonas has received so many memories, the Giver suggests that he run away to Elsewhere, at which point his memories will disperse to the community, and the Giver will help the community come to terms with emotions.
When Jonas finds out that Gabriel may be “released” soon, he is appalled to learn that being “released” is the same thing as being killed. Jonas runs away with Gabriel on his father’s bicycle, off in search of Elsewhere. The landscape becomes more and more filled with color, but Jonas grows hungry and tired. Finally, he finds a sled at the top of a hill and rides with Gabriel towards twinkling lights and merry music. Your teacher might use one of these fun activities to finish off the novel.
This short summary includes only the main events that occurred in the novel. To understand the full story, however, you will need to read this incredible book by Lois Lowry.
This post is part of the series: The Giver: Novel Study Guide
If you’re reading Lowry’s utopian classic, take a look at these articles on “The Giver.” Novel it may be, but it can also provoke thought and discussion.