Summary and Analysis
As the current Receiver of Memory transmits the first memory to Jonas, Lowry's style of writing changes. Up to this point, her style has been straightforward — clear and uncomplicated. However, all of the memories, which we understand through Jonas' interpretations of them, are lyrical because Jonas' thoughts, feelings, and moods are portrayed, as are the vivid images of what he experiences. For example, to describe Jonas' ride on the sled, Lowry gives us sensory impressions by using lyrical phrases such as "the sharp intake of frigid air" and "cold swirling around his entire body"; snowflakes are "tiny, cold, featherlike feelings," Jonas holds a "rough, damp rope," and the snowstorm looks like a "bright, whirling torrent of crystals." Because Jonas has never experienced snow, his sensations are unexplainable, but he feels a sense of peace at the conclusion of receiving the memory.
After Jonas receives the memory of the sled ride, he asks about the snow and the hills. The current Receiver, who later tells Jonas to call him The Giver, explains that generations ago, when the people chose Sameness, they also chose Climate Control and a flat terrain because the community could produce more food, and transportation would be easier and faster without hills, curves, and hazardous weather. The people believed that Sameness would benefit the community. Jonas expresses his wish that he and everyone else in the community had the option to choose. But, as The Giver reminds him, the people did choose: They chose Sameness. Lowry once again returns to a key theme in the novel. When people choose Sameness and security, they give up their individuality and the freedom to make further choices. Instead, all further choices are made for them.
The Giver transmits two more memories to Jonas that are as lyrical as the first memory. Jonas receives a memory of sunshine that is as pleasurable as the sled-riding memory. Confused, Jonas questions The Giver about the pain that he'd been told he would have to endure. Suggesting the pain that Jonas will feel in memories that he has yet to experience, The Giver sighs and hesitates answering Jonas' questions, as though he is not sure how to tell Jonas about the pain that is to come. To help explain the pain that awaits Jonas, The Giver transmits the memory of a painful sunburn to Jonas. Afterward, Jonas comments that he now understands pain. The Giver does not respond, indicating that Jonas doesn't know pain at all. Here, Lowry creates suspense because we have been told that Jonas will have to endure indescribable pain.
Chapter 12 begins with Jonas eating his morning meal. He had a dream the previous night, but according to his training instructions, he doesn't tell his family about it. In the dream, Jonas is going downhill on a sled in the snow toward a certain destination, but he can't reach the destination. He knows only that the destination welcomes him and is important: "Always, in the dream, it seemed as if there were a destination: a something — he could not grasp what — that lay beyond the place where the thickness of snow brought the sled to a stop." Jonas' dream foreshadows the ambiguous end of the book, when Jonas and Gabe are poised finally to reach the place that Jonas cannot yet grasp here in his dream. He has a good feeling after the dream, but he can't figure out why he has this emotion, nor can he forget the feeling as he prepares for school.
At school, Jonas feels alienated from his friends because he can't discuss his training in the same way that everyone else does. By using rhetorical questions, as she did in Chapter 9, Lowry reveals Jonas' thoughts about how absurd it would be for him to try to explain his recent experiences to his peers, who could not possibly understand them because all that his friends know is Sameness. Jonas, however, knows that his life now includes much more than Sameness.
A quality that the Chief Elder believed Jonas possesses is the Capacity to See Beyond. Jonas saw the apple change when he threw it to Asher, and when he was onstage during the Ceremony of Twelve, the faces in the audience changed. One day, Jonas sees Fiona's hair change. When he asks The Giver about all of these experiences, The Giver explains that when the community chose Sameness, the people gave up color, and what Jonas saw was the color red. Because the community wanted to do away with all differences as a way to control the people and their environment, genetic scientists are still trying, as they have for generations, to eliminate any and all colors that exist in people and the environment to attain absolute Sameness. The Giver says, "We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others." Jonas is angry that the people chose to give up colors and other wonderful experiences in order to attain Sameness. The Giver is surprised at the intensity of Jonas' feelings and the insight that Jonas already has about the philosophy of Sameness.
Climate Control Jonas' community controls the weather so that it is the same all the time.
obsolete of no consequence or importance; forgotten.
conveyance here, meaning transportation.
fretful agitated or uneasy.
shed here, meaning discard or forget.
"seeing beyond" seeing things that other people in the community can't see because they do not have the memories and no longer have the ability; for example, Jonas sees the color red in Fiona's hair.
genetic scientists here, scientists who study human genes and attempt to eliminate differences, or unique characteristics, in people and in the environment.