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Asher in The Giver: Character Analysis & Traits

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Have you ever had a best friend you grew apart from? This lesson will look at Asher in Lois Lowry's The Giver, and how his character and friendship with Jonas develop themes in the novel.

We Will Always Be Friends

Can you remember the first best friend you had? Some of us are lucky enough to have the same best friend throughout our lives. Most of us, though, have experienced growing apart from a best friend, whether that change happens because of an argument, or a move, or just because our interests pull us apart. This is what happens between Jonas, the protagonist of Lois Lowry's The Giver, and his childhood best friend, Asher.

At the beginning of the novel, Jonas and his fellow Elevens are anxiously awaiting the Ceremony of Twelve, when they will learn their Assignments, or job the Committee of Elders has decided they will hold until they reach the age where they no longer work. Just like in real life, beginning a new job often means you spend time with new people, and grow further away from childhood friends. Though his parents warn him this may happen, Jonas believes he and Asher will always be friends.

Precision of Language

In The Giver, all members of the community are trained and taught the rules of behavior through school and their family units. The goal is for every citizen to follow a strict set of rules, creating a world where everyone acts the same, and everything is the same. Asher's character is an example of how people are trained to act.

One of the most important lessons children learn in Jonas' community is correct language. People must not only learn how to speak, but also the correct words to use, or precision of language. Asher, however, talked too fast and mixed things up, scrambling words and phrases until they were barely recognizable. At the beginning of the novel, Jonas remembers a time when Asher was late to school. During his required public apology, Asher mistakenly uses the word distraught instead of distracted.

Asher's difficulty with language is even brought up by the Chief Elder during the Ceremony of Twelve, when she recalls how a three-year-old Asher frequently earned swipes from the discipline wand because he asked for a smack rather than his snack. Though it took some time, and lots of public apologies and discipline, Asher eventually learned. Because of his fun-loving and good-natured attitude, he is assigned to be the new Assistant Director of Recreation.

Growing Apart

In Jonas' community, nobody has memories beyond his or her own generation. This way, they do not have knowledge of painful events such as war or hunger. As the new Receiver, Jonas will be required to hold all the memories so that he may give advice to the Committee.

When training for their new jobs begins, Jonas still believes he and Asher will maintain their friendship. But, as often happens in our own world, they begin to grow apart as Jonas acquires more memories. One of the things Jonas gains from the memories is the ability to see color, which is something nobody else in the community can see, including Asher.

One day, standing near a bed of red flowers, Jonas tries to give Asher the ability to see color. Although he put his hands on Asher's shoulders, and concentrated the red of the petals, trying to hold it as long as he could, and trying at the same time to transmit the awareness of red to his friend, Asher only feels uncomfortable with the long touch.

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