Jonas is the protagonist, or main character, in the novel. He is a sensitive, polite, compassionate 12-year-old boy. Jonas is a dynamic character. He changes during the course of the novel due to his experiences and actions. We know how Jonas changes because Lowry narrates The Giver in the third person, limited omniscient viewpoint in order to reveal Jonas' thoughts and feelings. When the novel begins, Jonas is as unconcerned as anyone else about how he is living. He has grown up with loudspeakers, rules, precise language, and a family that is not connected biologically. He has accepted this way of life, because he doesn't know any other type of existence.
At the December Ceremony, Jonas is selected to become the new Receiver of Memory, the most honored position in the community. As he receives the Giver's memories and wisdom, he learns the truth about his community, that it is a hypocrisy and that the people have voluntarily given up their individuality and freedom to live as robots. Jonas' character changes and becomes more complex. He experiences an inner conflict because he misses his old life, his childhood, and his innocence, but he can't return to his former way of life because he has learned too much about joy, color, and love. Jonas knows that his life can never be "ordinary" again.
Jonas is also frustrated and angry because he wants his fellow citizens to change and thereby give up Sameness. He knows that the community and each person's life will benefit if only they would — or could — reclaim their individuality. Jonas realizes that his life would no longer be worth living if he were to continue living in the community as it is. To save the people in the community from their own senseless inhumanity, Jonas, an extremely courageous and brave character, risks his life. He flees the community with the baby, Gabriel. Jonas is afraid, but he is prepared to fight for their survival. Although we do not know how Jonas' experiences ultimately affect him or his community, we do know that he matures and that he feels excited and joyful as he and Gabriel ride down the hill on the sled.
The Giver, an elderly man with a beard and pale eyes like Jonas', is the current Receiver of Memory. He carries the burden of the memories of the world, and suffers from the pain contained within the memories. Because The Giver is unable to share his work with anyone in the community (they would never understand), he is lonely. His life is totally different from the lives of other citizens in the community. He lives in rooms called the Annex, rooms unlike the dwellings of the other community members. He can lock his door and turn off the speaker; he has luxurious fabrics on his furniture and walls lined with shelves from top to bottom, holding thousands of books. These amenities isolate The Giver from other people living in the community.
The Giver is cynical and frustrated because he knows that the people gave up too much when they chose Sameness. As The Giver begins to transmit memories to Jonas, Jonas becomes upset. The Giver is surprised at the intensity of Jonas' feelings and the insight that Jonas already has about the philosophy of Sameness. Jonas mirrors the feelings The Giver has had for years. He admits that he's "never been able to think of a way" to force the people to accept memories, a statement that indicates that The Giver, like Jonas, wants to do away with Sameness in the community.
The Giver works with Jonas to develop a plan to do away with Sameness. He agrees to be available to help the people cope with their newly found memories. However, that is not enough for The Giver. He longs to be with his daughter, Rosemary, the earlier Receiver-in-Train-ing who chose release over living a lonely and isolated life like The Giver. The Giver is telling Jonas that he intends to commit suicide. Because Lowry has written an ambiguous ending to the novel, we don't know what happens to The Giver.
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. According to Jonas, "her work never seem[s] to end." She always works after the family has had their evening meal.
Jonas' mother is proud that he has been named the new Receiver. She understands that it is the most prestigious position in the community, but, like other community members, she is unaware of the work Jonas will be doing. Throughout the novel, nothing seems to faze Jonas' mother. She systematically follows the rules of the community and, at the conclusion of the novel, she is exactly the same as she was at the beginning.
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 is emotionally and/or physically wrong with them.
Jonas' father does give the newborns every opportunity to flourish. He takes the newborn Gabriel home to live with his family in hopes of enabling the baby to sleep during the night and gain weight, thereby foregoing release.
Like other community members, Jonas' father follows the rules of the community. He is also a static, unchanging character.
Lily is Jonas' younger sister. She is a typically impatient child with straightforward, fairly simple feelings. Lily is also a chatterbox, talking continuously about subjects of interest to her. She is unconcerned about neatness, her hair ribbons are always untied, and because she is only seven (she becomes an Eight at the December Ceremony), she has many rules yet to learn.
Lily and Jonas behave like most brothers and sisters. They tease and become annoyed with one another from time to time. After Jonas has started to receive memories from the Giver, he tries to give Lily the memory of the being of an elephant (her comfort object is a stuffed elephant), but Lily complains that Jonas is hurting her because he is holding her shoulders too tightly. Lily is uninterested and unable to understand what Jonas implies when he talks to her about the fact that real elephants actually existed. She is also a one-dimensional character in The Giver.
Asher is Jonas' best friend. He is a cheerful, friendly boy who makes a game out of everything. Asher has always had trouble following the rules perfectly. He is often late for school and, as a result, has had to make numerous public apologies. The people in the community easily forgive Asher for his imperfections, because they like and enjoy him.
At the Ceremony of Twelve, Asher is assigned to be Assistant Director of Recreation. Because Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory, an honored position in the community, Asher is unsure how he should treat his friend and is hesitant to treat Jonas as he did during their years growing up together.
Fiona is one of Jonas' good friends. She is a very pretty girl who is sensitive, intelligent, quiet, and polite. At the Ceremony of Twelve, Fiona is assigned to be Caretaker of the Old. Jonas accompanies Fiona as they ride their bicycles to their new assignments. Fiona talks to Jonas about her assignment and the new tasks that she will have to learn. Unfortunately, Jonas can not talk about his assignment as the Receiver of Memory. Jonas realizes that their relationship will change; however, Fiona is not emotionally affected by Jonas' silence. She is a static char-acter — nothing happens within Fiona, things happen to her.
The Community Members
The people who live in Jonas' community are very predictable and unchanging. These characters are uncomplicated and complacent. They are static, simple, one-dimensional characters. Because the majority of them do not change throughout the novel, we see only one part of their personalities — their surface appearances and actions. Nothing happens within static characters; things happen to them.
Most of the citizens in the community passively follow the rules of the community. They always do what they are told by the Committee of Elders, following the rules and reprimands that are blasted over the loudspeakers located throughout the community and in every family dwelling. The people are totally controlled by the Committee of Elders as a result of a decision, a long time ago, to choose Sameness over individuality. The lives of the community members have been exactly the same for years. Nothing has ever happened to them except when an earlier Receiver-in-training, Rosemary, asked for release because she no longer could tolerate living in the community. After her death, the people were in total chaos because they didn't know what to do with the memories that Rosemary had experienced. They were not accustomed to thinking for themselves. Experiencing Rosemary's memories was something that happened to the people. Afterward, they resumed their lives as before, so it is evident that nothing permanently changed within them. Because Lowry has written an ambiguous ending, the changes that might have occurred as a result of Jonas' departure from the community are left to the imagination of each reader.