Summary and Analysis Chapters 21-23


In these last three chapters, Lowry heightens the suspense and tension that have been evident throughout the novel. The plan that Jonas and The Giver have made for Jonas' escape will never be put into action, for on the night after The Giver and Jonas decide on a plan for Jonas to leave the community, Jonas knows that he has to escape immediately. That evening, while Jonas' family unit is eating their evening meal, Jonas' father, using an ironically "sweet, sing-song voice," says, "It's bye-bye to you, Gabe, in the morning." The Nurturers, Jonas' father included, have decided to release (kill) Gabe, but Jonas is not about to let that happen. He cannot allow someone whom he has come to love to be killed for no reason.

The rules of the community no longer matter to Jonas. He chooses to break the rules and save Gabe's life, as well as the lives of the people in the community. Never can he go back to being a complacent citizen in the repressive community in which he's grown up.

Taking Gabe, Jonas leaves his dwelling at night, taking leftover food from the night's supper trays, which have been placed outside doorways for the Collection Crew to pick up. He steals his father's bicycle because he needs the infant seat attached to it for Gabe, who now symbolizes new life and the future.

Jonas does not question his actions. His only regret is leaving The Giver. Because The Giver has the Capacity to Hear Beyond, Jonas calls out a farewell to his friend, hoping that The Giver will hear it. Also, Jonas makes use of his knowledge and abilities by transmitting a calm, peaceful memory to Gabe so that the infant will sleep until they are safely away from the community.

As Jonas and Gabe flee from the community, Jonas' mood changes from anger and frustration to fear and preparation for a fight for survival. Thinking calmly and rationally, he establishes a routine of traveling during the night and then hiding and sleeping during the day. He drinks water from streams, shares the stolen food with Gabe, and transmits calming memories to Gabe so that the infant will sleep. Because Jonas is aware that search planes looking for him are equipped with heat-seeking devices, he also transmits memories of cold and snow to Gabe and uses some of the memories for himself so that their body heat will not expose their location to the search planes.

Days pass, and Jonas and Gabe travel farther and farther away from the community. The memories that Jonas has are becoming dimmer, indicating that these memories are returning to the people in the community. The landscape changes as Jonas and Gabe leave their community of Sameness far behind. They begin to ride during the day because the search for them has subsided. But the journey isn't easy because they are faced with other perils, including forests, streams, and stones that are difficult to ride the bicycle over or through. But they also encounter wonderful things such as birds, various animals, and colorful flowers. Despite the dangers, Jonas has never felt "such simple moments of exquisite happiness."

Although Jonas is able to appreciate the natural surroundings that he encounters on his journey, he is still fearful because he is afraid that he and Gabe will starve to death. The thought crosses his mind that if he'd stayed in the community, he wouldn't be starving from a lack of food. However, he would be starving from a lack of other things that matter in life, including love and freedom. He reaffirms the decision that he made to flee the community. His only sorrow is that he may not be able to save Gabe. Jonas loves Gabe and understands that interdependence between people is necessary and good. He isn't thinking of himself but of Gabe. By saving Gabe, Jonas will be saving himself.

Jonas and Gabe, weakened from a lack of food and living as fugitives, end up in a snowstorm. Luckily, Jonas can recall a memory of sunshine and is able to transmit heat to Gabe, "the one person left for [Jonas] to love." As he did in the dream that he had months earlier, Jonas feels that his destination is not far away, and he feels excited because he knows that he will be welcomed by whomever or whatever awaits him. Carrying Gabe, Jonas trudges up a hill. Finally, they make it to the top. Remembering his parents, sister, and friends, Jonas feels happy despite his situation. At the top of the hill, Jonas finds a sled. He tightly hugs Gabe as they sit on the sled and then begin to go downhill. Jonas sees colored lights in the distance, hears music, and knows that love and joy are at his destination.

In the ambiguous ending of the novel, Lowry blends together Jonas' present situation and his memories so that we don't know if we are reading about a memory or about Jonas' reality. However, because Lowry's style has been lyrical whenever a memory has been transmitted, and because here at the end of the book her style is not lyrical but straightforward, we can assume that Jonas is actually experiencing what we read. Also note that in the second-to-last paragraph in the book's final chapter, Jonas hears — "for the first time" — what he knows is music. Because he never received a memory containing music from The Giver, we can assume that he is not reliving a combination of the sled memory from Chapter 11 and the Christmas memory from Chapter 16. His and Gabe's experience here at the end of the book seems more real than not.

But what happens to Jonas and Gabe? Do they die? Is Jonas really dreaming? Do Jonas and Gabe actually reach a house with colored lights? Are Jonas and Gabe back in their community? Have the people in the community changed because they now have Jonas' memories? Lowry leaves all of these questions unanswered. By concluding the novel so ambiguously, she allows readers the freedom to choose their own endings.


languid spiritless or weak.

augmented added to.

gullies ditches that run parallel to roads.

imperceptibly without a noticeable result.

lethargy dullness of spirit; a lack of energy.