The Giver Chapter 1 Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

In the first chapter of Lois Lowry's Newbery Medal-winning ''The Giver,'' we are introduced to Jonas and his family, who live in a society with strict rules.

Meet Jonas

Chapter one of Lois Lowry's The Giver opens with Jonas, who is trying to decide on a word that would accurately describe his feeling. It is approaching December, and at the opening of the chapter, Jonas thinks he may be frightened. He realizes quickly, however, that 'frightened' is not the correct word. He remembers feeling 'frightened' a year ago when an unknown aircraft flew over his community twice.

Jonas recalls feeling only interest in the aircraft when it first appeared. It is 'against the rules for Pilots to fly over the community,' and so Jonas had never seen a plane up close before. But, when he and others realized it was not the typical cargo plane delivering supplies, they became frightened by the unexpected sight. A voice through the speakers had instructed everyone to immediately go into the closest building.

Looking at the deserted streets through a window, Jonas could not see any of the 'busy afternoon crew of Street Cleaners, Landscape Workers, and Food Delivery people who usually populated the community at that time of day.' Watching the deserted streets, Jonas went from finding the sight of the plane interesting to being frightened. That feeling goes away quickly once the voice from the speakers announces a Pilot had made a wrong turn. Despite knowing the gravity of the situation, Jonas felt reassured when the voice said, 'Needless to say, he will be released.' In Jonas's community, being released is the worst punishment imaginable for a 'contributing citizen.'

Searching For the Right Word

As Jonas remembers the feeling of 'palpable, stomach-sinking terror when the aircraft had streaked above,' he becomes more convinced that 'frightened' is not the right word to describe how he is feeling. He continues to think about what word would be right. Jonas is 'careful about language,' unlike his friend Asher.

Asher speaks without thinking, which often results in an amusing confusion of words. Thinking about Asher reminds Jonas of a time when Asher was late to school. After the class was seated, Asher had to stay standing to 'make his public apology as was required.' During the explanation part of his apology, Asher explains he was 'distraught' when he really meant 'distracted.' The teacher used his mistake as a segue into a lesson about the importance of language.

Jonas smiles at the memory of Asher's mistake while continuing to think of the correct descriptive word for his feelings. Jonas and the other Elevens been waiting a long time for this December. He decides he is a mix of 'eager,' 'excited,' and 'nervous.' Finally, Jonas decides 'apprehensive' is the best word to describe how he feels.

Jonas's Family Share Their Feelings

That evening, after dinner, Jonas and his family go through their ritual 'telling of feelings.' Although Jonas and his younger sister Lily often fight over who gets to share first, tonight Jonas allows Lily to go before him.

Lily, who is a Seven, shares that she felt angry that day when a little boy whose group was visiting her school did not obey the rules and wait his turn for the slide. She says he behaved like an 'animal.' Although neither she nor Jonas know what the word 'animal' really means, they often use the word to describe 'someone uneducated or clumsy, someone who didn't fit in.' Their parents ask Lily why she thinks the little boy might not have followed the rules. Finally, they point out the boy's community might have different rules. He might not have known he was disobeying the rules, and he might have felt out of place, too. After thinking it over, Lily decides she is not angry anymore.

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