The Giver Plot Summary
Where Jonas lives, life is safe, orderly, and predictable. Rules are strictly adhered to; every aspect of a person's life is carefully planned. People rarely make choices on their own; everything is decided for them by the community. There is no snow or sunshine, no colors or music, no animals or nature.
People in the community take special care to avoid doing or saying anything different. In the community, one must not say anything that causes discomfort to others, and one must use language precisely. Husbands and wives are matched as couples by a Committee of Elders who reviews each individual to see if a person's characteristics will be compatible with those of his mate. Exactly two children-one male and one female-are assigned to each family unit. The elderly live at the House of the Old. Those whose children have grown to have families of their own live with other Childless Adults. Newborn infants are nurtured at the Nurturing Center until they become Ones and are assigned to family units.
When Jonas and other Elevens become Twelves in December, they receive their Assignments that assign them to their particular fields of profession. As someone with intelligence, integrity, courage, and a certain special capacity, Jonas is selected for the most honored and respected Assignment in the community. He is assigned to become a Receiver of Memories who will succeed the current Receiver. A Receiver of Memories is the one person in the community who has access to all the memories of the past. He must keep these memories within himself until he can train a new Receiver to whom he can pass them. Thus, the Receiver has knowledge of things that no one in the community has access to, but the Receiver also has the responsibility to shoulder the burden of sorrow and pain that the memories bring.
Jonas begins his training with the Receiver whom he calls The Giver. At first, The Giver gives Jonas happy memories of the past-memories of things Jonas has never known. Jonas is eager and excited to be able to experience new things. But The Giver must also give Jonas memories of loneliness, fear, grief, rage, and pain-all of which he has never felt in the community. Gradually, through the memories he receives from The Giver, Jonas comes to realize the various truths about the community. He realizes that it is unfair to deprive people of ever being able to make choices for themselves about their own lives. He understands that the people of the community have no genuine feelings. Feelings have never been a part of their lives. He also learns that there are different ways to live. Through the memories, he sees people in the past living differently, and feels that the community must change.
Together with The Giver, Jonas comes up with a plan to change the entire community. He decides to flee the community for the Elsewhere, a place he has only heard about that lies far beyond. If Jonas leaves, the memories he has received from The Giver will be let loose. They will find their way back to the community and to the people. The people will have ready access to the memories that will, in turn, give them knowledge about things that have been missing in their lives. They will come to the same kind of awakening that Jonas did when he was given memories of the past from The Giver.
Jonas departs for the long and difficult journey during which he faces cold and starvation as well as the danger of being found. Seeing lights in the far distance after having come a long way, Jonas is confident that he has reached his destination.