Summary and Analysis
In Chapter 9, Jonas realizes that his life will never be the same as a result of having been selected as the new Receiver of Memory. At the conclusion of the December Ceremony, Jonas immediately feels "separate, different." People move aside for him to pass, and his peers are unsure of how to act toward him. Even his best friend, Asher, appears uncomfortable in Jonas' presence. His peers' reactions cause Jonas to feel very much alone and isolated. For the first time in his life, Jonas does not feel the same as everyone else. Lowry describes Jonas' demeanor as uneasy, nervous, and worried, suggesting that he is quite unhappy.
Jonas questions his parents about the last person who was selected to be the Receiver of Memory. They tell him that the person was a female, but they don't know what happened to her, only that her name is "Not-to-Be-Spoken." Jonas knows that something terrible happened to the girl because a "Not-to-Be-Spoken" name means total humiliation and dishonor. Jonas' parents become silent, making no further comments about the previously selected Receiver. Jonas now seems isolated even from his family.
The only similarity between Jonas' Selection and everyone else's Assignment is the folder of instructions that each Twelve receives for his or her lifelong career. Lowry uses rhetorical ques-tions — questions to which oftentimes there are no answers — to portray Jonas' feelings of disbelief after he reads his list of instructions. For example, Jonas wonders, "What would happen to his friendships? His mindless hours playing ball, or riding his bike along the river?" He has no choice but to do what is expected of him, but he feels that his childhood is slipping away.
Jonas' instructions do not allow any time for recreational activities, and what is most shocking to Jonas is that some of the instructions directly contradict the rules that he has followed throughout his life. Because behavior in his community is based on respect and politeness, he has never dared to ask questions or be rude, but his instructions indicate that now he can. He is not to discuss his dreams or accept medication for pain that has to do with his training. Jonas feels scared when he thinks about the "indescribable" pain that will be inflicted upon him during his training. However, he doesn't really know what pain is, for pain is "beyond his comprehension." And he can lie. Jonas has never intentionally lied. He recalls an incident when he used the word "starving" rather than "hungry." Accused of lying, he was told that no one in the community was, or ever would be, starving. Precision of language prohibits any lying and controls inappropriate thoughts. For the first time, Jonas is faced with the possibility that his entire community could be based on a lie, and every single person could be lying. And if people are lying, then the community itself and its utopian ideals are also lies.
Along with the obvious changes in Jonas' life, such as the nameplate that is changed on his bicycle by the Maintenance Crew during the night, Lowry reveals details about the current Receiver's accommodations, called the Annex, that indicate that Jonas' life has dramatically changed and will never be the same. Jonas is surprised to find that the doors at the Annex can be locked. He is unaware of any other doors in the community that lock. Also, The Receiver's furniture is different: It has curved lines and is decorative. In all other dwellings in the community, the furniture is the same: functional. The fabrics on the current Receiver's chairs and bed are luxurious, and, to Jonas' amazement, the walls are lined from top to bottom with shelves holding thousands of books. He hadn't known that so many books existed. The only books he knew about were his school books, the training manuals, reference books, and, of course, the Book of Rules. By limiting the citizens' access to books, the Committee of Elders is able to exert control over the community. Allowing people to be exposed to different ideas, places, or characters found in books jeopardizes Sameness; books represent knowledge, which in turn represents individual freedom to make choices in life.
Jonas meets the current Receiver of Memory and notices that The Receiver's eyes are pale like his own (and like Gabe's, although Jonas doesn't think of this similarity). When The Receiver tells Jonas that The Receiver's job is to transmit all the memories of the world to Jonas, Jonas doesn't understand because concepts having to do with "world" and "memories" are unknown to him. He knows "only us, only now." Here, Lowry introduces a major theme in the novel: the awareness that people must have about the interdependence between human beings, the environment, and the world. The current Receiver explains to Jonas how the future is developed based on wisdom gained from memories of the past.
The Receiver tells Jonas that the numerous apologies that are expected in the community and the rote acceptance-of-apology response are unnecessary between them. Lowry demonstrates how language is used to control the people by pointing out that the numerous apologies and trained response are automatic for the citizens in the community. The politeness that people exhibit toward each other is an illusion of social order. Although people appear to be considerate of each other, they really aren't sorry for their actions because their responses have been trained. Blindly obedient, they apologize and accept apologies without thinking because they are following the rules. Here, Lowry emphasizes an important theme regarding the importance of maintaining individuality: When people stop thinking for themselves and blindly follow a group, bad things can — and usually do — happen.
Lowry concludes Chapter 10 with a mood of suspense as the current Receiver turns off the loudspeaker, which, as another means of controlling people, cannot be turned off in family dwellings. He tells Jonas to take off his tunic and to lie face down on the bed. Jonas is about to receive his first memory.
solemnly seriously, with awe.
exempted freed; not responsible.
relief-of-pain medication medication that is dispensed to community members to relieve pain so that no one in the community suffers.
alcove a small area set off from a larger room or space.
embossed Embossing is a process in which letters or shapes are physically raised — for example, words in books printed in Braille; if you run your finger over the embossed letters or shapes, you can feel their outline.
runners blades used to glide over a surface, usually ice.