Imagery & Images in The Giver

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'The Giver' by Lois Lowry, Jonas receives all of the memories of the past with such vivid imagery that Jonas and the reader begin to feel like part of the story. In this lesson, we will learn more about imagery in this novel.

Becoming Part of the Experience

How would you describe color to someone who had never seen it? Or a place they had never been? The taste of an exotic fruit or the friendship you felt when you received it? Imagery is providing a visual picture to the reader so that they feel as if they are part of the experience. In The Giver by Lois Lowry, imagery is used as the Giver transmits memories of the past to Jonas so that Jonas can keep them for the community.

The Giver is a particularly interesting case in terms of imagery. Not only does the reader benefit and feel like they can relate and live through the same experiences through the page, but they get to imagine what it would be like for Jonas to be feeling these things for the very first time.


Jonas has grown up in a world filled with consistency. The community decided many years ago that 'Sameness' brought much-needed stability to their town. Every day of Jonas' life has consisted of grey, mild weather. As Jonas receives his first memory of the past, he feel cold for the very first time. 'He licked his lips, and in doing so, his tongue touched the suddenly chilled air.' Jonas does not feel frightened from this experience, but he is surprised by it.

The next thing Jonas feels resembles 'pinpricks,' but softer. 'Tiny, cold, featherlike feelings peppered his body and face.' As he catches the snowflakes on his tongue, Jonas feels 'dots of cold upon it.' Even though Jonas does not leave the Giver's home, he sees 'a bright, whirling torrent of crystals in the air around him' that 'gather on the backs of his hands, like cold fur.'

As Jonas experiences snow for the first time, it is not enough for the author to make reference to cold, wet snow. Jonas must develop a context for new weather by taking in every detail, which also provides the reader with a beautiful, visual image.


Unfortunately, not all experiences are great ones. As Jonas takes on every memory in the world, he must also endure pain. The first painful experience begins with Jonas 'basking in the wonderful warmth of the sun.' As he feels time passing, 'his skin begins to sting.' Sunburns are not ordinary pains, as Jonas discovers when he bends his arm and feels 'a sharp pain in the crease of his inner arm at the elbow.'

His discomfort increases when he tries to speak as the movement of his mouth causes his face to hurt. Through this memory, the reader might begin to recall their own experiences with sunburn and relive it with excruciating detail.


Perhaps the most miserable experience that Jonas goes through is something that many of the readers have never seen. When war is transmitted to Jonas, it feels like a 'confused, noisy, foul-smelling place.' All around him, he sees that the 'air was thick with smoke that hung, yellow and brown, above the ground.'

Jonas is surrounded by the sounds of men groaning and cannons firing in the distance. Finding a boy that is about the same age as himself, Jonas notices that 'dirt streaked the boy's face and his matted blond hair. He lay sprawled, his gray uniform glistening with wet, fresh, blood.'

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