Newbery Medal-winning young adult novel by Lois Lowry. Known for its expertly merciless Deconstruction
of the Utopia
, and incidentally provides an introduction to the Dystopia
genre for grade-school readers for whom some of the bits of 1984
and Brave New World
would be a tad too saucy.SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!...unless you went to grade school...The Giver
takes place on Earth (presumably in the far future) in a setting known simply as the Community, which is implied to be similar to independent others not terribly distant from it. Here life is completely free from worry thanks to "Sameness", a philosophy that strives to eliminate any possible want or need from human existence.
Children are born to anonymous Birthmothers, and are monitored from the moment they leave the womb. Everyone and everything is designed to be supportive, helpful, encouraging. All your major life decisions as an adult — your career, your spouse, when you can raise children and who those children will be — are made for you by the Committee of Elders, based on careful observation of your particular needs and aptitudes. Citizens live in symmetrical family units of four
: two parents, one boy, and one girl. (When young teenagers first reveal "the Stirrings," their mothers simply hand over the pills required to counter them.) As soon as their children are grown, the adults are sent to an area for Childless Adults, and when they reach a certain age they are to be cared for in The House of the Old.
There is no dissension at all
. People have even been bred to look the same (red hair and/or blue eyes are borderline freakish), and most have lost the ability even to see color. The population lives by a set of Rules that govern even the smallest detail of their daily lives — and if any single person breaks one, a loudspeaker immediately
'reminds' the entire community. Precision of language is drilled into children as soon as they begin talking, so that there can be no possible misunderstanding; any slight remaining difference or deviation is simply not discussed (this includes any mention of the Stirrings, naturally).
Anyone who cannot or will not conform - the very Old, the handicapped, people who break the Rules three times - is "Released to Elsewhere
", vaguely understood to mean sent somewhere outside the Community.
the Community even has a frame of reference to question this way of life - including our protagonist, Jonas, who at the book's opening is preparing for his Ceremony of Twelve where he will be assigned his future career. Jonas is one of the slightly-different; he has blue eyes and can see color, even though he doesn't know what it is yet. It is because of this ability "to see beyond" that he is chosen to be the successor to The Receiver — now the Giver
— of Memory, the one person in the entire community allowed to know what's beyond it. Or at least, what used to be.
Turns out, perfect painlessness isn't as easy to maintain as it looks. There are still memories of the time before Sameness, when people still knew want, and grief, and pain... and happiness and love.
All those dangerous memories have to go somewhere. By a process never quite
explained, the Receiver keeps them all stored in his head to protect his community at large from being overwhelmed by them, from learning of the mistakes humanity once made. Eventually this one must pass them on to a younger Receiver, for if the Receiver were to die - or otherwise leave the Community - while in possession of the memories, they would fly free, everyone would remember, and the Sameness would be shattered.
Thanks to his new position, young Jonas is exposed to how life used to be, and slowly but surely grows to believe it was better that way. His dilemma comes to a head when he discovers he's now allowed access to the most secret ceremonies of his Community, including the ceremonies of Release. Excited to peek in on his gentle father at work as a Nurturer of newborn babies, Jonas instead finds himself watching
him cheerfully kill
a newborn twin with a painful lethal injection, simply because 'having two identical people running around' would disrupt community harmony.
The Giver calms a horrified Jonas by explaining that he too has been looking for a way out for years, and helps Jonas plan how to run away. The memories Jonas has absorbed by then will be released to the citizens of the Community he's left behind, and The Giver will help them understand and cope with them. These carefully-laid plans, however, are abandoned when Jonas gets word that baby Gabriel, whom Jonas' father had brought into the family especially to try and help him meet the development goals, is to be Released as a failure the next day. With no other choice, Jonas takes the little one and runs for it into the harsh, cold world beyond, leaving us with only the sequel to reassure us they don't die.
A movie adaptation was released in August 15, 2014, starring Jeff Bridges
as The Giver, Taylor Swift
as Rosemary, Meryl Streep
as the Chief Elder, Katie Holmes as Jonas's mother and Alexander Skarsgård
as Jonas's father. Jonas himself is played by a relative unknown in the United States, Aussie soap star Brenton Thwaites.
The book spawned three pseudo-sequels, Gathering Blue
. While Gathering Blue
only implied it was set in the same universe, Messenger heavily hinted to being related to The Giver
, and Son
outright connected it. Together, they formed the The Giver Quartet
In addition to its exploration of the Utopia, this novel provides examples of:
- Adult Fear:
- Seeing your friends and family indoctrinated by the government to the point that they no longer know how to think for themselves.
- Your loved ones being euthanized without your knowledge.
- Jonas asks his parents if they love him. They don't even understand the meaning of the word.
- The Giver's relationship with his daughter Rosemary. He must give her the memories, she can't handle it, and it hurts her to the point where not only does she ask to be Released, but insists on injecting herself.
- After the End: While The Giver implies that the world "evolved" for lack of a better term, into Sameness, its sequel Gathering Blue shows that the world takes place after a major upheaval known as the The Ruin.
- The American Civil War: One of the memories Jonas receives seems is implied to be set in this period considering that soldiers are wearing grey uniforms and horses are running amok. Having grown up in the peaceful Community, he suffers a Heroic BSOD after witnessing the horrors of war.
- Assimilation Plot: Has already occurred in the distant past. "Sameness" is a concept that is central to the functioning of the utopia. Everyone is so similar that even the ability to see color is not allowed.
- Baby Factory: Girls are selected at the age of twelve to begin training as Birthmothers, producing offspring for the Community that are immediately taken away. Once they meet their quota, Birthmothers spend the rest of their lives as factory labourers.
- Beautiful Void: All we know about the background is that people got sick of unique differences and pains and got rid of them somehow. And something about infanticide.
- Best For Last: When all the people becoming adults are receiving their careers, Jonas appears to be skipped. At the end of the ceremony, they announce that he's to be given the most important job of all.
- Biblical Motifs: A bit subtler than most examples, but they're still there. Two of the central characters are named after an Old Testament prophet and an angel, respectively, and the plot starts with an incident with an apple that foreshadows a loss of innocence. The Community, a utopia without any knowledge of good or evil, undergoes a major upheaval after this knowledge is passed on to them. Unlike the Biblical example, however, Messenger implies that they get better.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: All couples are arranged this way, although, in this case, some mention is made of how couples are arranged so that the people involved complement each other and work well together, though it's still loveless and sexless.
- Child Prodigy: Benjamin, a classmate of Jonas', spent so much time volunteering (between the ages of eight and eleven) at the Rehabilitation Center that he came up with machines to facilitate the rehab and knew almost as much as the directors.
- The Chosen One: Jonas is chosen by his society to be the new Receiver of Memory, a very revered position. Halfway through the book he decides that pulling a Screw Destiny will work for the better of society in the long run.
- City in a Bottle: The Community has existed for long enough that no one has any concrete knowledge of the world outside it (known as "Elsewhere"), except the Receiver of Memory. An interesting example as it was intended for their own good, and the ones who Know The Truth carry the burden of knowing every memory ever held by mankind, including the bad and painful ones.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Blue (or at least "pale") eyes are linked to the special Receiving ability.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror:
- People who work with the very young or the old are conditioned to accept euthanasia as a fact of life, starting from their early adolescence. This includes Jonas's father, who nonchalantly euthanizes a baby.
- Like most people in his community, Jonas takes things that would be downright horrifying to many people as normal — although once he receives memories of better times, he realizes how horrible the Community is to make its residents live this way.
- Corporal Punishment: How the children learn to speak properly. A story was told about how Asher, as a three, asked for a "smack" instead of a "snack" when he was hungry and was hit so often with the stick that his legs had marks and he went silent for a time. The Chief Elder remembered this fondly.
- Crapsaccharine World: The Community while not perfect, seems to be harmonious, peaceful, and happy. Family units share their feelings, politeness is mandated, and everyone is given a task that suits them. But when Jonas receives memories of what the world was like before, he learns that the Community has completely sacrificed choices, colors, individuality, even love. And when he discovers what Released to Elsewhere means, he realizes the Community has even traded away basic human dignity and respect.
- Culture Police: Society is strictly regulated under a policy of "Sameness," in which life is carefully regulated to eliminate strife and division. Music and media have been eliminated. Weather is kept constantly pleasant, only raining at night to water crops while the people sleep. Sex drives, or "stirrings" as they're called in the Community, are suppressed by mandatory drugs (except for the few whose job it is to breed), as are other strong emotions. Even positive emotions like familial love have been carefully eliminated so as to avoid making waves. Animals of all descriptions have been eradicated, at least in the areas where people might actually see them, and even the ability to see color has been carefully removed from the general population. Everyone is kept in blissful ignorance of the fact that life has ever been any different, with the exception of one individual per Community called "the Receiver of Memory," who is entrusted with the memories of life before Sameness in case a situation arises that requires such knowledge to resolve.
- Deadly Euphemism: The term "released," which is short for Released to Elsewhere. Subverted in that nobody knows it is a euphemism save the Giver (and later his successor, the Receiver) because nobody save him has any concept of death.
- Deconstruction: The Giver is actually a deconstruction of utopias and their necessary maintenance. In the slow revelation of the underlying rules The Community is built upon, it becomes apparent that played realistically utopias may become dystopias of their own.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Though its absence isn't indicated until far into the book, the majority of the book takes place In a World where color (and music... and sex...) have been eliminated — or, rather, most people have been genetically engineered and drugged not to see it.
- Disproportionate Retribution: A Pilot-in-training is Released to Elsewhere for a navigational error.
- Dystopia: A society that has gotten rid of pain and conflict through "The Sameness."
- Erotic Dream: Jonas' dream of his "favorite female friend," Fiona, which prompts his mother to start giving him the pills.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep:
- The Giver's real name is never revealed and he is always just called "Giver" by Jonas and "Receiver" by other characters.
- The Chief Elder's real name is never revealed.
- The Evils of Free Will: The guiding principle behind the dystopian "Community". The elders make everyone's choices for them, including their career and their spouse, because if people were left to their own devices they might make the "wrong" choice. To limit people's choices even further, they go so far as to make the population colorblind.
- False Reassurance: The language of the Community is full of doublespeak and euphemisms-although what that means in a community that literally has no way of knowing it is left as an exercise for the reader.
- False Utopia: The Community is a society of perfect order. Except when someone decides not to follow it, then they get killed. Also, there are no emotions or colours.
- First Time in the Sun: Among the memories Jonas gets from the Receiver is one of the sun, suggesting it's somehow filtered out.
- Foreshadowing: Early on, we learn that Jonas' younger sister Lily has a stuffed toy elephant as her "comfort object", and that she believes that elephants are imaginary creatures that never existed (when he was little, Jonas had a bear, which was also supposedly imaginary). Much later in the book, Jonas receives a memory of an elephant being killed for its ivory by poachers. This is a major step in Jonas learning about the lost memory of sorrow, and it makes him realize just how much of the old world people have left behind.
- Freedom from Choice: This trope figures heavily in the book. In particular, both jobs and spouses are assigned by the government.
- Gainax Ending: The book ends with Jonas getting a vision of a family celebrating Christmas. The ending is written ambiguously enough that the reader can interpret it as Jonas and Gabe escape, or they end up back at the Community, or the ending is a Dying Dream, or what-have-you. Lois Lowry responded with a Shrug of God when asked about it, although Messenger heavily implies their survival and Son confirms it. Still doesn't explain the Christmas thing, though...
- Government Drug Enforcement: Aside from the usual birth control pills, people are given painkillers for every little hurt, to keep them from feeling even that most basic of emotions, pain. The mandatory pills also remove "stirrings," or sexual desire. Jonas is put on the pills soon after he has his first Erotic Dream about Fiona, a female friend.
- Grammar Nazi: Played for Drama. Proper and precise word use are important in The Community. Jonas was punished for hyperbole when he claimed he was starving. He was also asked to use less vague language when he asked his parents if they loved him. Young children are not given an exemption: Jonas's friend Asher was beaten for asking for a "smack" instead of "snack", and for a time refused to speak at all.
- Grand Inquisitor Scene: In every session with Jonas, The Giver explains why Sameness exists, and why things are done the way they are done. He later supports Jonas in bringing the society down.
- Happiness Is Mandatory: It's more like "Quiet Contentment is Mandatory", since excess emotion is discouraged in the dystopian society.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Our protagonist Jonas has his Stirrings for Fiona, who has red hair.
- How Do You Like Them Apples?: Jonas first discovers his powers through an apple. He later uses these to instigate a community-wide upheaval.
- Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The Giver has the ability to transmit memories via touch, which Jonas is able to do to Gabe later on inadvertently.
- The "I Love You" Stigma: Brought up in the book, where the society they live in is an obsessive Utopia that regulates everything from family units to emotions to painful memories, and everything must be kept to a strictly even-keeled norm. While they allow a degree of personal freedom and enjoyment, any emotion above caring for a friend is forbidden. Jonas asks his parents if they love him, and they respond with the standard "Love is an innappropriate term..."
- In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: All humans in the Community are bred to more or less the same physical features. Differences such as Fiona's red hair and Jonas's blue eyes are regarded as a fault.
- Individuality Is Illegal: See The Evils of Free Will above. The Community is run by a very precise set of rules-people have been engineered so that they all look the same, experience more or less the same things, and react with the same quiet contentment and patience, and any deviance from this (see Asher's "snack"/"smack" incident) is punished. Breaking the rules thrice results in Release.
- Ironic Echo: "Back and back and back" is at first used between The Giver and Jonas to describe why things are how they are. Later, it is to emphasize the hopelessness of changing anything.
- I Want My Mommy: The traumatic memory of a war's aftermath brought with it badly wounded soldiers laying out in a field, calling out for mother, water, and death.
- Job Title
- Living Is More Than Surviving: A central theme: Jonas comes to realize that the community gave up genuine emotion and humanity for an emotionally sterile, functional utopia.
- Lost Common Knowledge: This is the whole point of the book. The title character's actual occupation is "Receiver of Memory," and his role in the community is to be the only one with access to Lost Common Knowledge (such as the existence of death, color, and animals), in case it comes in handy to the regime. For example, the Giver tells Jonas that he was consulted when the powers that be were considering increasing the number of children born, and he said no because he knew why they'd started controlling population numbers, to avoid starvation. Of course he and Jonas come to feel that everyone else is being deprived of the knowledge of good things and that they're unfairly burdened being the only ones to know about things like starvation.
- Meaningful Name:
- "Jonas" is a variant form of the Hebrew name "Jonah". Much like the prophet Jonah in The Bible, Jonas (who's arguably a "prophet" in his own way) is a Chosen One selected by his rulers to receive great messages, and he ultimately decides to elude his destiny by running away and starting a new life somewhere else.
- Fiona is an Irish name; although ethnic names of all types appear in "the community," Fiona is the only person with red hair, a feature the Irish are known for.
- "Asher" means "happy." Not so much in the film, where he's a serious, unsmiling busybody.
- Gabriel is the name of an angel who is often considered a symbol of healing.
- Rosemary (which stands for remembrance, according to Ophelia in Hamlet). Her name will never be used again after her death forced the community to remember the vivid emotions they have left behind.
- Mentor's New Hope: This is part of the back story: The Receiver of Knowledge who mentors Jonas is revealed to have had another protege in the past, hinted to have been his own biological daughter (in their society, children are assigned to parents other than their birthmothers), who committed suicide out of despair brought on by the knowledge she received from her mentor, and was unpersoned by the Community.
- Mood Whiplash: There is a nice scene where Jonas watched his father give the smaller of infant twin brothers a check-up. It's so nice and lovely, and... Wait, that's that needle? What do you mean "can't have two identical people running around?" WHAT DO YOU MEAN "THE VEINS IN YOUR ARM ARE TOO TEENY-WEENY?!?!"
- Never Say "Die": Nobody *dies* in the Community, they are "released"-or in rare cases, "lost".
- New Speak: The society enforced what it called "precision of language." Children are strongly reprimanded for using any kind of exaggeration or figurative language, because they lump it under "lying". (The example given is a child who says he is starving when he is only very hungry, because implying that the state would really let anyone starve is seen as extremely problematic.) They can still play pretend, though, so it doesn't hamper their thinking. Additionally, due to the Giver system, a great deal of the very concepts of the old world (stavation, war, etc) have been or are in the process of being completely scrubbed out of the collective consciousness this way almost passively. Released to Elsewhere is a prime example: it is a Deadly Euphemism that nobody save the Giver even KNOWS is a euphemism because they have ceased to have virtually any concept of death. Which means that the authorities that order it and the doctors that perform it likely probably don't realize the full ramifications of what they are doing. In short: NewSpeak so powerful and entrenched that even those that mandate it and enforce don't really recognize it for what it is. Imagine the kind of psychological tampering THAT would require.
- Nice Guy:
- Jonas is intuitive, understanding, sensitive, kind, well-meaning, polite, and wanting to do what's best for the Community.
- Fiona is caring and considerate, which makes her a good fit for the job of caring for old people. Although her job of "releasing" old people is not so nice, although she doesn't understand the implications of such an act.
- No Blood Ties: Babies are produced by women whose job title was Birthmother (though the matter of how exactly these babies are conceived is never addressed) but raised in 'family units' composed of a man and a woman (matched up by the Elders), and one male and one female child. Given that everybody's sex drive is chemically inhibited (pills for "Stirrings"), it's safe to assume that the kids are fertilized in vitro.
- No Ending: Was Jonas real and he escaped, or was it all a dream? The sequels give the answer, but the wonderful thing about them is you can accept them as sequels or not, and either interpretation is acceptable. Lois Lowry knew what she was doing.
- No Sex Allowed: People are given pills to stop sex drives, or "stirrings," from the start of puberty. (Platonic) marriages and families still exist, but the children are assigned to parents by the government, which has Birthmothers as a special profession. They undergo artificial insemination, as described in Son.
- Nuclear Family: Invoked by the Community. All families are intentionally set up like this, although minus the dog, as pets don't exist in the Community.
- Obliviously Evil: Jonas watches his own father commit infanticide, completely and blissfully unaware of what he's doing. The townspeople have no concept of death, and therefore, no idea that being "released" actually means being murdered.
- Occult Blue Eyes: Having blue eyes, or at least light as opposed to dark, is very rare in the community in which the book is set, and seems to be a sign that one is capable of "seeing beyond".
- One Steve Limit: Invoked. In the Community, only one person is allowed to carry a given first name at any given time. In the rare event that a person dies unexpectedly, their name is immediately passed on to a newborn baby to create the impression that they never really left.
- Only One Name: Everyone in the Community. Justified, since all of them are raised by adoptive parents assigned by the government, and have no reason to carry family names. This also prevents people from becoming too attached to their adoptive families, since familial love is one of the many emotions that society has let go of.
- Passing the Torch: An essential part of the Giver's relationship with the Receiver. Every Receiver accepts the job with the understanding that he/she will eventually become the next Giver, with the task of passing on the accumulated memories to the next Receiver.
- Perfection Is Impossible: The creators of the society sought to eliminate war and prejudice, among other things, but in the process they give up many freedoms, the ability to see color, and kill anyone that doesn't fit in.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Though this is never explicitly stated, it's likely that this played a role in the development of the Utopia Justifies the Means society. Even color is eliminated. Not just skin color — all color except black, grey and white. And couples don't actually reproduce through intercourse, but are assigned exactly two children (children are born to specifically designated Birth Mothers who are never seen) and every citizen begins taking medication during puberty to suppress "the Stirrings".
- Population Control: Every family unit is allowed two children. If a child dies, the parents either can apply or are simply given another baby of the same gender and same name as a replacement. However, they come from Birthmothers, which only have 3 children, then a lifetime of hard labor. Even then, only 50 newbabes are given to parent units in December.
- Released to Elsewhere: Trope Namer. No one other than the higher-ups know what it means. Anywhere outside the Community is known as "Elsewhere". The citizens think that when one gets too old, too sick, or too uppity (or in one case, born an identical twin, because they don't want any confusion on which is which and in another as enforcement of the strict Population Control), one is sent to a doctor to be examined, and then sent through a door in the Releasing Room beyond which, children are told, someone welcomes them to "Elsewhere." Jonas, as he is training to be the Receiver of Memory from the title character, learns that "release" is actually the Community's euphemism for "mandatory euthanasia," carried out by lethal injection by the doctor in question. In this case, that happened to be his father. What's perhaps most disturbing is that, due to the nature of this Dystopia, even those who carry out the "release" can't grasp the full connotations of what they're doing.
- Renowned Selective Mentor: The Giver is an example of this trope. The task of the Receiver of Memory is to remember the details of their history and how the world used to be, only when a successor is chosen does the Receiver take on the title of "Giver" as he begins to transfer these memories to his replacement. Usually this is a once in a lifetime kind of thing, but the current Receiver had a protege that failed many years ago and has had to carry on as the remember for a long time while waiting for the next suitable replacement. Jonas becomes the Giver's student, and he is considered to have a special rank in the community.
- Replacement Goldfish: If a child dies, the Community says his name less and less during the day as a way of allowing them to say goodbye to him. The parents can then apply for a replacement child who will be given the same name.
- Rite of Passage: Getting assigned a job is an important rite that determines the rest of a person's life; being assigned the unusual job of Receiver is what marks Jonas as special in the community.
- Science Fantasy: Everything that happens in the book is mostly within the realm of reality, except for the psychic way memories are passed from The Giver to The Receiver. No science is involved, just physical contact and concentration, implying use of some form of magic or supernatural ability. But in the sequels, especially Messenger, certain people possess "gifts" that are essentially magical powers that perform a set task. There is even a forest that changes itself to reflect the attitudes of the members of a community.
- Science In Genre Only: The book never gives any scientific justification whatsoever for...well, anything, really. Not the psychic transmission of memories, not the total control kept over every aspect of the Community, right down to its climate and color—or, rather, lack thereof. The focus is more on human nature.
- Secondary Character Title: The book is about the boy who's been selected to replace the Giver.
- Sexless Marriage: Every marriage is this, since sexual desires are suppressed by pills.
- Sinister Surveillance: No one can turn the speakers off...except the Giver.
- Someone Has to Do It:
- Someone must act as the Receiver of Memory and hold all of the community's memories of the past in his or her own mind. If they die before passing them on, the memories escape and infiltrate everyone's mind... and as this is an emotion-free false Utopia, their minds aren't able to cope (imagine a wide-scale human Logic Bomb). For this reason, Receivers are forbidden to undergo voluntary "Release" (assisted suicide).
- Implied to be the case for Birthmothers (surrogate mothers who give birth to all of the community's children). The job is spoken about with some disdain, but as Son points out, if Birthmothers didn't exist, no one would.
- Splash of Color: In-universe. Jonas first starts seeing color by noticing red for the first time, when everyone else is unable to see anything other than black and white.
- Teen Pregnancy: Some girls are selected to become Birthmothers at the tender age of twelve, meaning they give birth at 13-14. Of course, this only helps the jarring creepiness of the setting.
- Together in Death: The Giver implies that he plans to be Released so this will be the case with him and his daughter, Rosemary.
- Tomato Surprise: The point-of-view character, Jonas, experiences certain objects (an apple, his friend's hair) "changing" in the former half of the story; only he notices it, and he can't even quite explain what kind of change he saw. It is later revealed that everyone in his society is genetically engineered to be colorblind, and the "changing" was him briefly seeing the color red.
- Transferable Memory: The Giver transfers memories to Jonas. Also, those memories can be transferred to the general population if something happens to the Receiver.
- Truth in Television: The loudspeaker system prevalent throughout the book actually exists in many schools-the school's office can switch on a microphone to communicate with teachers through the loudspeaker if the phones are out of order for some reason.
- The story's dystopian society has removed Rosemary, the previous Receiver of Memory and the Giver's daughter from the public memory, going as far as to forbid her name to be used for a new child ever again, after the memories she received dissipated out into the community when she applied for release (assisted suicide, and she knew what it was) and the members of the community had to feel emotion and pain for the first time.
- There's a variant that is almost kinder: A young child dies, his parents are given a new child, same gender, and the same name, in order to "replace" the child that died. Because everyone's emotions are so dulled, this is an effective emotional replacement, rendering the original child meaningless.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: The Giver and Jonas, his apprentice, often discuss whether their peaceful and happy lives ordained by the Community is worth the loss of choice, family, sexuality, color, and music, and if it's worth the "release" (that is, execution) of anyone who transgresses against the rules, even accidentally, and any extra babies that would disrupt the population count.
- The Voice: The Speaker who makes the announcements and warnings over the loudspeaker.
- War Is Hell: A brief, haunting moment is when Jonas is given the memory of a young man dying in combat in what is implied to be The American Civil War. And when we say young, we mean no older than thirteen. Utopia Justifies the Means, indeed...
- Weather Control Machine: Though the mechanics of it are never discussed, it's made clear that the Community's leaders know how to control the weather within the confines of the Community. For the people that live there, things like snow and rain are completely unknown, and the sun is always faint enough that no one apparently knows what a "sunburn" is. Fittingly, taking a sled ride in the snow, getting a sunburn, and getting a leg fracture after slipping on ice are some of the first memories that Jonas receives. When he escapes with Gabe, he has to deal with harsh weather for the first time in his life, and nearly freezes to death in the snow.
- We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future: Everybody except the Receiver of Memories has the right to commit suicide whenever they want and euthanasia (which is called being "Released to Elsewhere") is practiced on the elderly, the smaller of twins, and babies that don't develop correctly, as well as on people who cause too much trouble (airplane pilots who make too many mistakes, for instance). Consent is an issue in the latter case, though, since they don't know it's euthanasia rather than exile. Due to the way this society works, even the people who perform "Release" don't fully understand what they are doing. Only the Giver and the Receiver, the only people who possess all of the knowledge the society has given up, understand that "Release" means death. One chilling scene is when the main character realizes his father kills the "defective" infants.
- Wham Line:
- At some point The Giver mentions that there used to be another receiver named Rosemary. She was given sweet memories most of the time, but when she started to get the really painful memories, she asked to be released. After she died, her memories were let out, and there was chaos. Only with The Giver's help did people return to their normal lives. Later on, you also learn that The Giver has a daughter. Jonas, eager to help, asked what her name was. The reply? "Her name was Rosemary."
- "You are beginning to see the color red".
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: Jonas grows up in a false Utopian society where the word "love" has become obsolete. When he learns about it through memories received from the Giver and asks his parents if they love him, they admonish him for not using precise language and say that asking "Do you enjoy me?" or "Do you take pride in my accomplishments?" would have been better. What makes it better is that they actually laugh and treat the question as meaningless. Jonas can't help but think that what he felt earlier was anything but meaningless. He realizes that further questions would also be met with either ignorance or programmed responses. It's also explained that there is no choosing of one's own spouses — everyone is paired up according to how "compatible" they are. Couples also don't have their own children and aren't even allowed to chose the ones they adopt.
- The World Is Just Awesome: At the end of the book. Jonas escapes his controlled world to discover a town celebrating, presumably, Christmas, as he sleds down a hill.
- World of No Grandparents: Enforced. Since there are No Blood Ties, nobody knows who their biological grandparents are, and old people just go to the House of the Old.
- World of Silence: The community is a milder version. People still laugh and take pleasure in their activities, but as Jonas discovers, it is all very superficial. When someone in the community says they are sad or angry, they are not talking about true grief or rage, but much shallower emotions. The word "love" is not unknown in the community, but it has lost relevancy. Jonas' parents enjoy his company very much, but they consider the word as very generalized, meaningless to the point of being obsolete. If the community continues as it is, the word itself may be forgotten.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: The book has ridiculously strict population control methods doomed to fail. Even with a completely cooperative populace, it will still fail because of math.
- Each family unit is allowed a maximum of 2 children, the same number of children are born each year and they are all assigned to a family unit. Not all adults have children, and not all family units have the maximum of 2 children.
- Birthmothers, the only job that allows giving birth, are only allowed to have 3 children each before they become laborers. This would require that at least 2/3 of all women become birth mothers to maintain a stable population, but this doesn't happen at the beginning of the book as the administration is handing out jobs to graduates.
- You Are Number Six: People have serial numbers besides their names. When children behave badly, their parents sometimes call him on their numbers, suggesting that a bad child is not worthy of a name. This is related is the fact that, in the community, children's ages are used as nouns rather than descriptions; for example, "a Four" or "all the Elevens". They also use the term "Olds" for the elderly.