The Giver Study Guide

The Giver By Lois Lowery

The Giver takes place is a pseudo-utopian community where everyone is forced to abide by a massive complex of laws designed to ensure Sameness. Upon reaching 12 years of age, each person is given the job they will have for the rest of their lives; every family has 2 children, one male and one female; husbands and wives are matched based on personality for the best relationship and the best parenting balance; family unit share their goals, dreams, and feelings on a daily bases to prevent emotional buildup.

As the novel progresses, it becomes obvious that the ideas of family and love are radically different than normal. Children are born to women whose job is to bear children, and then given to families to raise as their own; after children leave the house, parents move out to communal housing for childless adults. Pills which suppress emotions including sexuality ("Stirrings") are handed out daily to everybody.

If a person breaks the law three times, they are 'Released', regardless of how or why they broke the law -- even infants. 'Release' seems at first to be a kind of pleasant exile, but is later proven to be lethal injection which is given to everyone at some point, because even death must follow the rules of Sameness.

Jonas is selected as 12 to be a "Receiver of Memory", a role in which he is allowed to know about and remember all of the things that the community cannot: violence, death, sex, beauty, joy, adventure, pets, sadness, true love, and true family. He receives these memories telepathically from The Giver, a surrogate grandparent who was given the same job when he was 12. The two talk much about their knowledge, and eventually decide to try to change their community to bring some of these ideas back. They decide to accomplish this by having Jonas leave the community, which will force the memories to spread in order to keep them from being lost forever.

Jonas' family temporarily takes on Gabe, a baby that is risking Release because it cannot sleep through the night without crying. When Gabe is about to be Released, Jonas (who knows what Release really is) kidnaps him and runs. He escapes, and the memories are released, but he soon runs out of food and grows weak and cold. For Gabe's sake, he plunges on. The ending is ambiguous - he might have died of hypothermia, or he might have been saved.

The Messenger, a later novel, reveals that both Jonas and Gabe survived.

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