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Ceremonies in The Giver

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  • 0:04 Aging in ''The Giver''
  • 1:03 The Ceremonies
  • 2:59 What Does It Mean?
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

Can you imagine living in a world where individuality was discouraged? That is the kind of world in which Jonas lives in Lois Lowry's 'The Giver.' In this lesson, we'll take a look at 'ceremonies' in Jonas' community and how they contribute to discouraging individuality.

Aging in The Giver

Have you ever had a friend, or even a family member, forget it was your birthday? Many of us look forward to our birthday. It's a day when we celebrate who we are - when our friends and family reach out to tell us they are glad we were born. But what if you did not have a birthday? What if the day you were born was just a notation in a book and how old you were was marked in a yearly ceremony you shared with any other child born that year? That is what happens in Jonas' community in Lois Lowry's The Giver.

Instead of individual birthdays, the children in Jonas' community age one year as a group during the yearly December Ceremonies. During that ceremony, every child in a group advances one year in age regardless of in what month the child was born. So, if you were born in March and your friend was born in November, you would both be officially counted as one during that year's ceremony. This process repeats every year until the final, and possibly most anticipated, ceremony - the Ceremony of Twelve.

The Ceremonies

Everyone in the community attends both days of the yearly ceremonies - imagine having that kind of guest list for a birthday party! Although citizens stop counting age after twelve, everyone still participates in the ceremonies, watching as each child is given new responsibilities each progressive year. These responsibilities often relate to where the community feels the child should be in their maturity level.

During the Ceremony of One, each new child born that year is given his name, and is placed with a family unit. Another milestone is age seven, when children receive a jacket that buttons in the front for the first time, since they are now independent enough to dress themselves. At eight, children begin their mandatory community volunteer hours and receive jackets with pockets because they are now old enough to keep track of their smaller possessions.

Nine is also a big year for children in Jonas' community: at nine, children receive their very own bicycles. Even though it is against the rules, many of them have already learned how to ride from an older sibling - this is one of the only rules that is overlooked when broken. At ten, children have their hair publicly cut into the styles fitting their gender. But the most important of the ceremonies is the final age ceremony: The Ceremony of Twelve. It is this ceremony that Jonas is anxiously waiting for in the first chapters of the novel.

During the Ceremony of Twelve, each child receives his Assignment, or the job he will have for the rest of his life. While they will still have one more year of school, they will also begin training for that job. Each new Twelve walkw onto the stage, where the Chief Elder will speak to the rest of the community, remembering the child's life before announcing what job the Committee of Elders has decided upon. This ceremony is exciting, but can also make the soon-to-be Twelves nervous. After all, even though they know the Committee has been observing them very carefully to decide what role they would be best suited for, what if they're assigned a job they don't like? They're allowed to appeal the decision, but those appeals rarely make a difference, and so they would still be in a job they didn't enjoy.

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