The Giver Summary

  • Last updated on March 25, 2021
"infobox Book "
name The Giver
image caption 2002 paperback edition
author Lois Lowry
country America
language English language
genre(s) Science-fiction
series The Giver trilogy
publisher Bantam Books
release date 1993
media type Hardback and Paperback
pages 179
isbn 0553571338
followed by Gathering Blue

Jonas, an Eleven, is apprehensive about the approaching Ceremony of Twelve. His friends Asher, Fiona, and the others of his year seem to naturally fit into a certain Assignment. His mother and father are both matched well to their Assignments and even his little sister Lily demonstrates some early inclinations to where she might be Assigned. He, however, has never felt a particular draw to any one thing.

Jonas' community is ordered by tight rules, and multiple transgressions will result in Release from the community to Elsewhere. Newchildren who do not develop as expected and the Old are also Released. But Jonas is not concerned with those things. He is a good student and obeys the community rules, except for one instance of being singled out for removing an apple from the recreation area.

At the long-anticipated ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is shocked when the Chief Elder announces that he has not been Assigned, but rather Selected as the community's next Receiver of Memory. It is a very rare event and a position of great importance. Jonas meets the community's previous Receiver of Memory for his training. The man tells him that he is now the Receiver and that Jonas should call him The Giver. The Giver begins to transmit his memories to Jonas. Jonas learns about colors, which are not seen by other citizens because of Sameness. He had already begun to see some color, in the case of the apple he took home. The Giver later begins to transmit memories of war, pain, hunger and death. These memories are kept away from the community so that they do not have to know such things, but the memories must exist somewhere. Along with the terrible and painful memories, there are also beautiful memories of the time before Sameness and of a love that does not exist in the community.

As the memories he receives drastically change his understanding of his community, his friends and family, and himself, Jonas begins to conceive of things being different, and that people could make choices for themselves, even if they were wrong, and that they could love.

When he witnesses his father Releasing a newborn twin Jonas realizes that the term actually means death. The Giver explains that it is not his father's fault, because he and the others do not have the memories Jonas does and they know nothing. It is then that Jonas and The Giver form a plan for Jonas to disappear from the community and thereby release all of the memories he has received back into it. However, the night the plan is to be set into motion, Jonas learns that a Newchild, Gabriel, who has been staying with his family in the hopes that he would learn to sleep through the night, is scheduled for Release in the morning.

Jonas deviates from the plan and flees the community with the Newchild. They avoid the search planes, but as they go further and further from Sameness their situation grows more and more desperate. Finally, in a snowstorm, Jonas is certain they are coming to the promised Elsewhere, where people are waiting for him and the baby.

Character List


Jonas is a well-behaved Eleven eagerly and apprehensively awaiting the Ceremony of Twelve, when he will get his Assignment. He has never been drawn to any particular field, so he is amazed when he is Selected for a rare honor. He is to be the Receiver of Memories for the community. However, as he begins his training, the memories he receives force him into a deeper understanding of his community.


Jonas' sister. A Seven, Lily likes to talk. Like her father, she enjoys working with Newchildren. When she becomes an Eight, she begins her volunteer hours and starts them in the Nurturing Center.


Jonas's friend. An Eleven, Asher is known for his good nature and his tendency to make mistakes in his language. At the Ceremony of Twelve he is Assigned as the assistant to the Director of Recreation.

Jonas's father

A Nurturer, Jonas's father enjoys his work and uses a special voice with all of the Newchildren. He brings home the Newchild Gabriel temporarily to help with his development.

Jonas's mother

A worker for the Department of Justice, Jonas's mother worries on occasion about the punishments she must give out. She takes pride in her children's accomplishments and pushes them to be precise in their language.


Gabe, a Newchild that Jonas's father brings home at night because he has trouble sleeping and is not developing well. Gabe gets an unusual reprieve and is allowed an extra year to develop while staying with Jonas's family.


Jonah's friend. A female Eleven, Fiona spends her volunteer hours in the House of the Old and is Assigned as a Caretaker of the Old. When Jonas has his first Stirrings it is from a dream involving Fiona

The Giver

The previous Receiver of Memories for the community, it is The Giver who must transmit all of the memories from generations past and Elsewhere to Jonas. He is troubled by his previous failure with a Receiver-in-Training, who he loved as he loves Jonas.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One

Jonas is troubled by the approaching ceremony of December. It is not, he determines, the frightened feeling that he had when a strange aircraft passed over his community and all of the citizens had been ordered by loudspeaker to go indoors. Jonas, unlike his friend Asher, who frequently confuses his language, is very precise with the words he chooses and determines that, in addition to feeling eager like the other Elevens, he also feels apprehensive.

That night, Jonas and his family have their evening telling of feelings. His younger sister, Lily, shares her anger at a child from a visiting Childcare group from another community. The family encourages Lily to see that the visitor may not have understood the rules of their community and to feel pity for him rather than anger. Next, Jonas's father reveals his worry about a newchild at work who may be released from the community. He tells the family that he has asked to bring the newchild home in the evenings for some extra care. When Lily suggests that they might keep the newchild she is reminded of the rules that state that each family will have one male and one female child. Jonas's mother shares her feelings of frustration and anger at a man she has had to punish twice in her position at the Department of Justice. She is fearful of the event of a third transgression, for which he would be released from the community. Lastly, Jonas reveals his apprehension about the Ceremony of Twelve, which is coming in December.

Chapter Two

After revealing his feelings of apprehension, Jonas and his parents have a private discussion. Jonas reflects on his memories of the ceremonies of previous years, such as the day his sister was named and assigned to his family. Jonas's father discusses his own Ceremony of Twelve and his Assignment as a Nurturer. He and Jonas's mother try to ease Jonas's concerns by assuring him that the Elders make Assignments carefully. They also remind him that the Ceremony of Twelve is the last Ceremony and that it marks his transition from his childhood to training for adult life.

Chapter Three

When Jonas's father brings home Gabriel, the newchild, Lily notes that the newchild has strange pale eyes, like Jonas. Lily states a desire to be assigned as a Birthmother because of the good food and relative pampering but is reminded that such an Assignment is not a good one, because after three births, all Birthmothers become common laborers.

Because of her talkative nature, Jonas thinks to himself that she would make a good Speaker. He then recalls with embarrassment a recent incident when the Speaker gave an address directed towards him. He took an apple home from the recreation area to examine because he had briefly seen something different about it and in doing so had violated the rules about removing snacks from the recreation area and hoarding food.

Chapter Four

Jonas joins Asher and a female Eleven, Fiona, at the House of the Old to complete some of his required volunteer hours. He helps to bathe one of the Old, a woman named Larissa. She tells him about the celebration of the Release of another of the Old, Roberto. She describes a wonderful tribute to his life and a look of joy on his face as he went to the Releasing Room. Jonas asks her what happens in the Releasing Room and she says that she does not know.

Chapter Five

In the morning, as his family shares their dreams from the night before, Jonas, who normally does not have dreams, has something to tell. He explains a dream that involves a bathing room and the female Eleven, Fiona. In his dream, he wanted the girl to undress and get into the bath. His parents let him know that this was his first Stirring. His mother gives him a pill for treatment and tells him that he will continue taking the pill until he goes to the House of the Old.

Chapter Six

The two-day Ceremony has arrived. Jonas must wait, because the Ceremony of Twelve, when he will receive his Assignment, is the last Ceremony on the second day. The entire community gathers in the Auditorium. It begins with the Naming Ceremony, when the newchilds are assigned to families.

Gabriel is not being assigned to a family and has been given the unusual concession of being allowed an extra year to develop properly while staying with Jonas's family. Jonas waits impatiently through the first and the second day for the Ceremony of Twelve

Chapter Seven

The Ceremony of Twelve begins. When it is his friend Asher's turn, the Chief Elder recalls a time in the boy's youth when he was unable to distinguish between the words “smack” and “snack,” which resulted in repeated physical punishments and led him to stop speaking for a time. In spite of the embarrassing story, Asher's Assignment as the Assistant Director of Recreation is a good one.

Jonas watches as the Elevens before him are given Assignments that seem to suit and please them from the Chief Elder. When it is his turn, however, his number and name are passed over, an event which shocks and unsettles him and the rest of the community.

Chapter Eight

The Chief Elder issues an apology both to the community and to Jonas himself, for the anguish she caused them in skipping over his name. She explains that this is because Jonas has not been given an Assignment. Instead, he has been Selected as the community's next Receiver of Memory. This selection has been years in the making and she refers to a previous failure that Jonas does not know about, but clearly discomforts the adults of the community.

She tells Jonas that the Receiver must have intelligence, integrity, courage, and wisdom, skills which they believe he has or will have, in addition to the Capacity to See Beyond. Jonas recognizes that this sight is somehow related to the strange incident with the apple, and experiences the sensation again as he looks to the crowd. The community then honors and accepts him in his new role by chanting his name over and over.

Chapter Nine

Jonas, reeling from his unexpected selection as the Receiver in training, feels separated from the community for the first time in his life. His parents tell him that it is the most important position in the community and a great honor. He asks about the previous failure, and they tell him that they never saw her again and that they are never to mention her name. Jonas reviews the folder with the instructions about his new position. The instructions surprise him as many of them exempt him from what is normally expected of community members, including giving him permission to lie.

Chapter Ten

Jonas meets with the Receiver of Memory for his first day of training. This man tells him that his training is going to involve the transmission of all the memories within him, and that he, Jonas, is now the Receiver. He tells Jonas that all of his remaining energy and strength will go into giving the memories of the whole world to Jonas. Jonas is confused by the idea of the whole world and of history. The man tries to explain to him using a metaphor of snow and sledding, but Jonas does not know about those things. So, the man determines that this is the first memory he will pass to Jonas.

Chapter Eleven

Lying on his stomach on a bed in the man's office, Jonas experiences the first passed memory. With the man's hands on his back, he finds himself no longer in the office, but on a snowy hill where he takes an exhilarating sled ride. Just as suddenly, he finds himself back in the office. The man passes a few more memories to Jonas, who does not find it unpleasant, even when the memory is of a painful sunburn. The man explains that the memories have to do with weather, something that was taken away with the decision for Sameness. As Jonas leaves for the evening, he asks the man what he should call him. The man tells him to call him The Giver.

Chapter Twelve

At his morning meal, Jonas lies to his parents and tells them that he did not have a dream the night before. At school, he feels strange as he is not allowed to discuss his training like the other Twelves. He notices something different about Fiona's hair that day and tells The Giver about it, and also the way the crowd changed at the Ceremony of Twelve and the apple. The Giver explains to him that he is beginning to see the color red and that soon Jonas will be able to see all the colors.

Chapter Thirteen

Weeks pass and Jonas sees colors more and more. He struggles to understand why there are no choices about color in the community and The Giver explains that if people are given choices then they might make the wrong one, which is why people are protected by Sameness.

Jonas tries secretly to show his friends and family some of what he has learned; however, his attempts are rebuffed with unawareness and annoyance. As he continues his training, Jonas tries to understand the importance of his new role. The Giver tells him that his life will become the memories that he holds and the occasional requests for council and advice from the Committee of Elders. He tells Jonas that when the previous Receiver-in-Training failed the memories and knowledge she had were not contained and caused a number of problems until they were re-assimilated.

Some days Jonas is unable to train because The Giver is in too much pain because of the memories he carries. Finally, he asks The Giver to give some of that pain to him.

Chapter Fourteen

The Giver passes a memory of a sledding accident that gives Jonas his first understanding of real pain. Jonas feels the pain of it even after the memory, but is not allowed to take anything for the pain, as has been the usual reaction to pain his whole life. The Giver explains to Jonas that these memories of pain are important so that the Receiver can give good council to the Committee.

At home, Gabriel is growing well, but is still sleeping poorly at night. Jonas's father says it is unlikely that a decision would be made to Release him soon, because another Release is already expected due to the upcoming birth of male twins. If identical, one will be Released by Jonas's father. Jonas asks his parents to put Gabriel's crib in his room for the night, and inadvertently soothes the restless newchild with a memory of a beautiful lake. He realizes this was probably an error, and resolves not to tell anyone.

Chapter Fifteen

Jonas finds The Giver once again incapacitated by pain and offers to take some of it. The Giver transmits to him a horrible scene of war where men, some barely older than he is, are lying injured, dying and thirsty. Jonas experienced lying near death in agony for hours before the memory is complete. When he opens his eyes, The Giver asks him for forgiveness.

Chapter Sixteen

In addition to the painful memories, The Giver also has good memories to share. He passes to Jonas his favorite, a memory of a family gathered in celebration with young and old altogether. The feeling of love and warmth is new to Jonas. As he discusses the memory with The Giver, he wonders about the notion of grandparents and considers that when he has children his own parents will be in the House of the Old and no longer a part of his life.

Later, he asks his parents if they love him. They scold him for using such an imprecise word and tell him that they enjoy and take pride in him. Gabriel, who has been sleeping well in Jonas's room is deemed ready to be given to a family in December, which is only two months away. However, when he is taken from Jonas's room, he resumes his poor sleeping. With Gabriel back in his room, Jonas considers that things could be different, that everyone could have memories, grandparents and love. The next morning, he throws away the pill he had started taking at his first Stirring.

Chapter Seventeen

The declaration of an unscheduled holiday gives Jonas the chance to seek out some of his friends. He finds them playing a usual children's game that he suddenly realizes is one of war. Overwhelmed with the painful memories of real war that he has experienced, Jonas inadvertently spoils the game. He struggles against the increasing realization that the people he loves cannot return his feelings, that they do not know real sadness, anger, or love.

Back in their dwelling, Jonas's father prepares for the Release of one of the identical twins that will be born the next morning. When Jonas asks if he will actually take it Elsewhere, his father explains that he performs a small Ceremony of Release and then waves good-bye. Jonas asks if someone from Elsewhere comes to get the newchild and his father tells him that is correct.

Chapter Eighteen

In discussing Release with The Giver, Jonas finally learns the truth about the failed Receiver-in-Training from ten years ago. The Giver explains that the girl, Rosemary, was very like Jonas and that he loved her, just as he loves Jonas. After five weeks of training, the Giver had begun to pass some of the difficult memories to her. After kissing him on the cheek at the end of a hard day, Rosemary went to the Chief Elder to ask to be Released. At the time, there was no rule against it, and so the Release was given.

The Giver tells him that memories cannot be lost, so with her gone, they went back to the people. All of those unknown feelings from the five weeks of memories she had received were overwhelming to the community until they were assimilated. Jonas and The Giver discuss what would happen if something were to happen to Jonas. The Giver admits that he might be able to help the community cope with the feelings the same way that he helped Jonas cope with them.

Chapter Nineteen

At The Giver's insistence, Jonas watches a recording of his father Releasing one of the newborn identical twins. Horrified, he sees that his father kills the newchild with an injection in the temple, places it in a box, and puts it down what appears to be a garbage chute. The Giver tells him that when Rosemary asked for Release she put the needle in her arm herself.

Chapter Twenty

The Giver, aware of Jonas's distress, arranges for him to stay the night. Jonas realizes that all Releases, for newchilds, for the Old, for those who break the rules three times are this callous form of death. As he rages against it, The Giver reminds him that they cannot help what they are doing because they know nothing. The Giver and Jonas form a plan for Jonas to leave and thereby release all of his memories to the community. The Giver will remain to help the community cope.

The plan is simply for Jonas to leave his dwelling the night before the Ceremony, leave a note with some lie of going for a bike ride and go to the Giver. He will then sneak into a car that The Giver had requisitioned and leave the community with him. The Giver would return alone and announce that Jonas had been lost to the river. After the Ceremony of Loss, the community would be forced to deal with the memories they would now be have to bear.

Jonas makes a final plea to The Giver to join him, but the man refuses. He tells him that when his work in the community is done, he wishes to be with his daughter, the previous Receiver-in-Training, Rosemary

Chapter Twenty-One

The careful planning of Jonas and The Giver fell apart the evening before the Ceremony. Jonas's father tells the family that Gabe failed to sleep once more at the Nurturing Center and the Nurturers had voted for his Release. It is set to happen in the morning, before the Ceremony. So, Jonas changes the plan, and leaves the community at night without seeing The Giver, taking leftover food from dwelling doorsteps, his father's bicycle, and the newchild Gabriel.

Jonas and Gabriel sleep by day and travel by night as search planes fly overhead looking for them. Jonas uses the memory of cold to hide them from the heat-seeking equipment on the planes. Eventually, there are fewer planes, and finally, none.

Chapter Twenty-Two

No longer in Sameness, Jonas and Gabriel are now in the wilderness, complete with animals. Their meager food supplies are gone and Jonas struggles to find them food. Even catching two fish does little to help their increasing hunger. Fending for themselves in the elements and starving, Jonas fears he might not be able to save Gabriel, and no longer cares about saving himself.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Jonas feels as though he is getting closer to the promised Elsewhere when real snow begins to fall on himself and Gabriel. He uses his memories of warmth to sustain them, but the relief they provide from the cold is fleeting. As they continue through the snow, Jonas remembers the hill that they are on and is encouraged. At the top of the hill, he finds the waiting sled from his first passed memory from The Giver. He and Gabriel start down the hill and he feels them heading towards Elsewhere. He sees the lights he remembers from The Giver's favorite memory of a family celebrating love. As the sled carries them down the hill, Jonas feels that they are waiting for him and the baby too. He hears music.

He thinks that he might hear music from the place that he left, but then is unsure if it is only an echo.

External Links

Categories: Fiction