Jonas The protagonist, or main character, in the novel. Jonas is a sensitive, polite, compassionate twelve-year-old boy. At the December Ceremony, he is selected to become the new Receiver of Memory, the most honored position in the community. Jonas is quite complacent, or non-caring, before he begins his training as the new Receiver, but after he gains wisdom from memories and realizes that people gave up their freedoms for Sameness, he becomes angry and frustrated. During his training, Jonas acquires very deep emotional feelings and learns about love. He becomes a close friend of The Giver and risks his own life to save the citizens in his community.
Mother Jonas' mother is an intelligent, sympathetic, and understanding person. She holds a prominent position at the Department of Justice. One of her job responsibilities is to punish people for breaking the strictly enforced rules of the community.
Father Jonas' father is a shy, quiet, considerate, caring man. He is a Nurturer, responsible for the physical and emotional needs of every newborn child during the first few months of life. He is also responsible for the release — killing — of infants who are deemed worthless because something either emotional or physical, or both, is wrong with them.
Lily Jonas' younger sister. Lily becomes an Eight during the December Ceremony that takes place toward the beginning of the book. She is a typically impatient child with straightforward, fairly simple feelings. For example, she is not concerned that her hair ribbons are always untied, and Lowry describes her as overly talkative.
Gabriel (Gabe) A newchild (infant) who begins spending nights with Jonas' family unit because he needs extra attention and care. Gabe is a sweet child but does not sleep through the night and is not gaining weight as fast as the other newchildren. He ends up sleeping in Jonas' room and is able to receive memories from Jonas.
The Giver The Giver is the current Receiver of Memory and trains Jonas to become the next Receiver. Because he carries the burden of the memories of the world, he suffers from the pain contained within the memories. He is lonely because he can't share his work with citizens in the community, and he is cynical and frustrated at times because he knows that the people gave up too much when they chose Sameness. He loves Jonas and the people in the community.
Asher Jonas' best friend. Asher is a cheerful, friendly boy who makes a game out of everything. At the Ceremony of Twelve, he is assigned to be Assistant Director of Recreation.
Fiona One of Jonas' good friends. Fiona is a very pretty girl who is sensitive, intelligent, quiet, and polite. She is assigned to be a Caretaker of the Old.
Larissa An elderly woman who lives in the House of the Old. Jonas bathes her when he volunteers at the House of the Old. While being bathed, she tells Jonas about two elderly people who have been released recently.
Chief Elder The leader of the community.
Fritz Fritz lives in the dwelling next door to Jonas'. He is an awkward child who is always getting into trouble. Fritz turns nine years old at the December Ceremony and receives his own bicycle, as all Nines do.
Caleb The first Caleb died when he was four years old by falling into the river that runs near the community. During the December Ceremony, the couple who were given the first Caleb receive a replacement child, also named Caleb.
Rosemary Rosemary was The Giver's daughter. Selected ten years earlier to become the new Receiver of Memory, she began training with The Giver, but after only five weeks, she asked to be released from the community.