The Giver: Summary, Characters, Themes & Author

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  • 0:02 Memories & The Giver
  • 0:44 Summary of The Giver
  • 4:25 Characters in The Giver
  • 5:51 Author Biography
  • 6:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Suzanne Sweat

Suzanne has taught 12 years in the NC Public School System and three years at Campbell University. She has a master's degree in English Education.

In 'The Giver,' the government controls citizens' freedom to choose their occupation, spouse, and emotions. Read on to see why and how the government exerts this control, and what one boy plans to do to stop it.

Memories and The Giver

Memories create connections between people. Do you remember your first love, first heartbreak, first day at school, or first experience with death? Thinking of these memories draws us to the people involved and reminds us of the emotions felt during the experiences. But what if we didn't have memories?

In The Giver, citizens have no memories of the society's past so that they don't have to feel its burdens. Instead, one citizen, the Receiver of Memory, is chosen to bear all of the memories. Without memories, the connections citizens have with one another are limited, and individual life is not valued. But two citizens see the value of human connections and provide hope for the future.

Summary of The Giver

Jonas is anxiously anticipating the Ceremony of Twelve, where he, along with other twelve year olds in his society, will discover which occupation the elders have chosen for him. Citizens don't choose their occupation, or their spouse, or their children. Everything is chosen for them because they believe choices can lead to regret and pain. By limiting choices and freedom, the society believes it can prevent wars, poverty, and other negative aspects of the past.

The society goes to great lengths to limit choices. When children begin to feel an attraction to someone, they must begin taking a stirring pill that prevents them from feeling emotions. Without emotions, adults don't feel love for one another, so they are given two children from a Birthmother whose occupation it is to have babies.

Jonas, his mother, father, and sister, Lily, seem happy. They eat dinner together each night and discuss their experiences during the 'Telling of Feelings.' Jonas' father works as a Nurturer in the nursery where all babies must stay until they turn one. One baby, Gabriel, is having a hard time sleeping through the night. Jonas' father has asked permission to take Gabriel to his house in hopes that the baby will thrive.

On the day of the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is given the job of Receiver of Memory. Jonas' training consists of receiving memories from the former Receiver, who he now calls The Giver. The Giver lays his hands on Jonas' back and transmits pleasant memories at first, such as sledding and Christmas. Jonas questions why the society would not allow these experiences, since they are positive. The Giver explains that to do so would be giving the society freedom and choice, and that those can lead to negative decisions. The Giver then gives Jonas negative memories, such as sunburn, a broken leg, and war.

Jonas wants to feel the love he felt during the memory of Christmas, so he stops taking the stirring pills. He begins to see colors and he wants his friends to experience the same feelings he has, but they can't. The only one who he seems to have a connection with is the baby Gabriel. Jonas begins to transfer memories of peace and comfort when Gabriel has trouble sleeping at night.

After a year of receiving memories, Jonas is frustrated that the society is so limited in its freedoms. The Giver tells him that the only thing that can be done is for the memories to be released. If Jonas is no longer a part of the society, then the memories that Jonas received will be released to the citizens. This is what happened ten years ago when the last Receiver in training was released. Jonas asked the Giver to show him what it means to be released, and Jonas learns that people who are released are given a lethal injection and die.

Jonas is horrified by this discovery, so he and the Giver come up with a plan: Jonas will fake his death and run to 'Elsewhere.' Then all the memories he had received will be released to the general public and the citizens will gain wisdom about the past and their lack of freedom.

That night, when Jonas returns to his home, he learns that the Elders have decided Gabriel is not making adequate progress, so he will be released in the morning. Jonas decides he doesn't have time to wait for the Giver's plan to be implemented, so he escapes on his bike with Gabriel.

Gabriel and Jonas travel all night, hiding from those sent to find them. When airplanes fly over with heat-sensing radars, Jonas transmits the memories of cold so that he and Gabriel's body temperatures will lower, and they won't be detected. Jonas continues to transmit different memories to Gabriel to keep him calm. After a few weeks on the run, they run out of food, they are exhausted, and Jonas is almost ready to give up, when he spots a sled at the top of a hill. The sled looks just like the sled from one of the transmitted memories. He notices that down the hill are twinkling lights. Jonas puts Gabriel on the sled and slides down the hill, headed toward what he is sure is 'Elsewhere.'

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