Posted in Book slices

Book slices: The Giver, the Meaning of Release

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Title: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

This haunting story centers on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he’s given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

The slice: chapter 19


One of the most intense chapters of The Giver Quartet is in the first book.

Since ‘release’ was first mentioned, I was wondering what exactly it meant. At first I thought it’s obviously death but everyone was too casual, too matter-of-fact about it, so I started doubting myself. Jonas wasn’t sure what it meant either and reading the book from his perspective made me unsure too. Then a little baby was supposed to be ‘released’ so I started hoping it really meant going to a different community. In the case of the elderly it surely had to mean death but the description of the old man being so happy about his own release made me doubt even that.

But then finally in the chapter 19, Jonas gets to watch a release and the story of this colorless world becomes even more disturbing.

The chapter starts with Jonas telling the Giver that his father is releasing a newchild today. There was a set of identical twins and only one could be part of the community, so Jonas wanted to watch the ceremony of release for the other one. His father told him he makes the kid clean and comfy, preforms the ritual and then someone takes the baby away. The Giver tells him that now, as the Receiver, he can and should watch it.

It’s very unsettling to read about Jonas watching the ceremony because his expectations are so different from reality. He watches the tape: his father weighs the twins, gives the bigger one to his assistant and then stays alone in the room with the smaller one.

“Now he cleans him up and makes him comfy,” Jonas told him. “He told me.”

“Be quiet, Jonas,” The Giver commanded in a strange voice. “Watch.”

Obediently Jonas concentrated on the screen, waiting for what would happen next. He was especially curious about the ceremony part.

His father turned and opened the cupboard. He rook out a syringe and a small bottle. Very carefully he inserted the needle into the bottle and began to fill the syringe with a clear liquid.

Jonas first assumes the baby is getting shots. What makes the scene really scary is how his father acts like it’s no big deal. It’s only after the little boy’s body goes completely limp, that Jonas understands what just happened.

He killed it! My father killed it! Jonas said to himself, stunned at what he was realizing. He continued to stare at the screen numbly.

His father tidied the room. Then he picked up a small carton that lay waiting on the floor, set it on the bed, and lifted the limp body into it. He placed the lid on tightly.

He picked up the carton and carried it to the other side of the room. He opened a small door in the wall; Jonas could see darkness behind the door. It seemed to be the same sort of chute into which trash was deposited at school.

His father loaded the carton containing the body into the chute and gave it a shove.

“Bye-bye, little guy,” Jonas heard his father say before he left the room. Then the screen went blank.

The story of Rosemary requesting to be released, and choosing to do it herself, makes this chapter even more memorable and the responsibility of being the Receiver even scarier. Jonas learns a lot that day: about his own power that comes with being the Receiver, about his father and the reality of the world he lives in. Watching the ceremony changes the way he sees everything around him and makes the reader see the story in a whole new light.

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