Summary and Analysis
After receiving the painful warfare memory in Chapter 15, Jonas is reluctant to see The Giver again. The pain that he experienced causes him to mature, and, as a result, he loses his innocence and his childhood. He does return to The Giver, though, because he knows that "the choice was not his."
To help Jonas through the pain that he's experienced, The Giver concentrates on transmitting good, happy memories to Jonas. As in the previous memories, Lowry's style becomes lyrical, and the sense impressions that she creates are extremely realistic. For example, Jonas experiences a birthday party and understands "the joy of being an individual, special and unique and proud." He goes to a museum and sees paintings painted with the many beautiful colors that he now knows exist. He rides a horse across a field that smells of "damp grass" and learns about the bonds that exist between animals and human beings. Also, he spends time learning about the joy and contentment that come from enjoying solitude, or time by oneself.
One day, The Giver transmits his own favorite memory, a memory of love and happiness, to Jonas. In the memory, Jonas is inside a house, and it is snowing outside. A fire is burning in a fireplace, creating a cozy atmosphere, and colored lights decorate a Christmas tree. People are laughing as they open presents and hug each other. They appear to be very happy. From this memory, Jonas learns about a traditional Christmas celebration and about the concept of grandparents. Most important, he learns about love, which, sadly, "was a word or concept new to him."
That night following the Christmas memory, Jonas courageously asks his parents if they love him. They laugh at him and remind him that he needs to use precise language. They tell him that the word love is too generalized a word, so meaningless that "it's become almost obsolete." His mother even asks him if he "understands why it is inappropriate to use a word like 'love.'" Dumbfounded by his mother's response, Jonas again faces the realization that his own parents, as well as everyone in the community, stopped having individual feelings when they chose Sameness. His parents don't know what love is. Jonas feels sad because he has experienced love, and love does have meaning for him. At the conclusion of Chapter 16, Lowry foreshadows the future when Jonas whispers to Gabe that life in the community could be different if people would change: "There could be love."
Lowry leads us to believe that the mood of Chapter 17 will be less serious than in previous chapters. An unscheduled holiday is announced over the loudspeaker. Everyone has the day off from work, school, training, and volunteer hours. Ironically, Lowry writes, "the community was free." We know, however, that the community is not free. The people follow strict rules and can be observed or listened to at any moment by the Committee of Elders. The people chose this way of life because they chose Sameness. Lowry returns, once again, to a significant theme in the novel. When the people chose Sameness, they chose to give up their freedom and individuality, a choice that is ultimately destructive.
Jonas rides his bicycle to find Asher and to enjoy the holiday. While he is riding, he analyzes his feelings, which he now understands have more depth. He compares his own feelings to everyone else's feelings and concludes that people in the community have shallow feelings. Jonas knows from the memories he has newly experienced that the feelings that people discuss during the nightly ritual of emotional sharing cannot simply be discussed; they must be felt.
Jonas locates Asher, Fiona, and a group of other children at the playing field. He watches their game, which he has played many times in the past. They are in the middle of an imaginary battle pretending to shoot each other, falling down or running every which way to avoid being shot by the enemy, made up of another group of children. All Jonas can think about while he is watching the make-believe war game is the warfare memory in which the young boy dies. Jonas walks to the middle of the field without thinking about what he is doing and stops the game. The children walk away, uncertain of why Jonas stopped their game of war, and Jonas is left to face Asher and Fiona. He tries to explain how cruel the game is, but, of course, neither Asher nor Fiona understands. They don't understand death either. His friends finally leave.
Jonas' knowledge and wisdom have changed his life. He no longer acts or feels the same way as he did before he began receiving memories from The Giver; therefore, his relationships are not the same. He feels a great sense of loss. Refusing to live as a robot again, he knows that he can never go back to living without feelings (he has even stopped taking his pill for the Stirrings). He feels overwhelming sadness for his friends because they do not feel anything at all.
Lowry leaves us in suspense at the end of Chapter 17 after Jonas finds out that the identical twins will be born the next day and that one of the twins will be released and will go Elsewhere.
ecstatic exciting and pleasurable.