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The Giver Chapter 13 Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

Jonas has been learning a lot from his training as the new Receiver of Memory. In this chapter, we watch Jonas try to deal with knowing he will be the only person with access to memories.

Decisions, Decisions

If you have ever felt alone or lonely, then you know how Jonas is beginning to feel in chapter thirteen of Lois Lowry's The Giver. Unlike our world, people in Jonas's community do not have memories beyond their own lives - only the Receiver does. Generations ago, the community decided to go to Sameness by making everything the same. Because of this Sameness, only the Receiver knows what colors are, or what it is like to catch snow on your tongue, or feel sunshine.

Through training, Jonas has learned all of the colors. Sometimes, looking around his community, he will see colors for a brief moment before they are ''gone again, returning to their flat and hueless shade.'' Like anyone who wants something badly, Jonas is frustrated that he can only catch glimpses of color outside of his training, and exclaims to The Giver it ''isn't fair that nothing has color!''

Without color, there are no choices. It is like when we are young and our parents decide what we will wear every day, except in Jonas's case there is no difference in ''the colorless fabric of his clothing.'' Instead, maybe he would like to be able to choose what color tunic, or shirt, to wear in the morning.

Jonas Would Like a Choice
Shirts

The trouble, as The Giver points out, is that if people had the ability to choose, then they ''might make wrong choices.'' Although this might seem strange to us, since we are used to being able to make most of our own choices, Jonas thinks this makes sense. After all, he says, what would happen if people could choose who they married, or what job they held? What would happen to his community then?

Do You See What I See?

As Jonas's new awareness grows, he feels more and more frustrated. He finds himself getting angry with his friends for being satisfied with their same old lives, and angry with himself because he can do nothing to change those lives.

Without asking whether he can, Jonas tries to share his new knowledge with his loved ones. One day, he asks his friend Asher to look at a bed of geraniums while he ''put his hands on Asher's shoulders, and concentrated on 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 does not see what Jonas sees, though.

Jonas Tries to Help Asher See Red
Red Geranium

Unfortunately, not all of the memories are pleasant. One night, Jonas is at home after receiving the disturbing memory of elephant poachers. He had watched as the men shot and killed an elephant before removing its tusks. Perhaps even more sad, though, was watching another elephant mourn its loss.

Still upset by the memory, and the mourning elephant's roar, Jonas watches that evening as his younger sister Lily takes down her comfort object, a stuffed elephant. When he tries to tell her there were once real elephants, Lily does not believe him. Jonas tries to give her an idea of ''the being of the elephant, of the towering, immense creature.'' Lily still does not see, and eventually moves away from Jonas's touch.

Elephants Were Once Real
Elephant

Why Is There A Receiver?

One of the choices people in our world expect to be able to make is in our spouse. Although people in Jonas's community must apply for, and then be assigned, a spouse, they still expect to share their lives with that person.

While Jonas can have a spouse, much of his life would be kept separate. The Giver even had a spouse, though she now lives with the other Childless Adults. Once adults grow older, they ''were no longer needed to create family units,'' and so lived separately. While they lived together, though, The Giver and his spouse had lives different than others in the community. For example, only the Receiver is allowed to have the collection of books that ''contained all the knowledge of centuries.'' The Receiver is also not allowed to tell anyone about the job or the memories, except when a new Receiver is chosen.

Apart from such normal activities as eating and taking walks, the Receiver's life is the memories. Every once in a while, the Committee of Elders will need him for advice, but The Giver tells Jonas they only rarely ask. Even though there are things he wishes they would change, ''they don't want change. Life here is so orderly, so predictable - so painless. It's what they've chosen.''

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