Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Giver

Go To

"I received all of those, when I was selected. And here in this room, all alone, I re-experience them again and again. It is how wisdom comes. And how we shape our future."

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.

The Giver takes place on Earth (presumably in the far future) in a setting known simply as the Community, which is similar to other communities 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. The protagonist, Jonas, is apprehensive about receiving his Assignment that will determine his future, only to learn he hasn't been Assigned at all—he's been selected to bear the memories of the past the community turned away from. Jonas is mentored by The Giver, the current Receiver of Memory, and delves deeply into the memories and experiences of the past. Eventually, he must choose whether to stay or risk it all in an attempt to get through to them.


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 has also inspired a musical with book and lyrics by Nathan Christensen and music and lyrics by Scott Murphy, and an opera by Susan Kander.

A graphic novel version of the book was released in February 2019.

The book spawned three pseudo-sequels, Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. While Gathering Blue only implied it was set in the same universe, Messenger made the link much less ambiguous, and Son cemented it. Together, they form The Giver Quartet.


In addition to its exploration of the Utopia, this novel provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    # to G 
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: During the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas mentions that "birthmothers", like everyone else, have their profession chosen for them at the age of twelve, and that they start having babies not long after that.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Jonas and Lily are called Jonas-Bonus and Lily-Billy respectively by their parents (which the former finds rather embarrassing).
  • 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 current state of the world is the result of a major upheaval known as The Ruin.
  • Always Save the Girl: Just as Jonas and the Giver make plans for Jonas to leave, without causing too much of an upheaval, Jonas finds out that Gabriel is going to be released. He tosses all those plans out the window to take Gabriel and a small supply of food with him. This means that while he's losing the memories of warmth and soothing sunshine and food, the Community is sending helicopters after him.
  • 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: Some 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 doing menial labor.
  • 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.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Subverted between Jonas and Lily. While he loves her, and tries to share the memories with her, he can't make her understand. And he never takes the chance to teach her to ride a bike.
    • Played straight when Jonas finds out that Gabriel is going to be released. He immediately steals Gabriel, his father's bike, and a small bit of leftover food to make the trip to Elsewhere, without the Giver's help.
  • 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.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: One of Jonas's rules is that he cannot apply for Release, because when Rosemary did, the community barely handled the six weeks worth of memories that she had. Even so, it never occurs to Jonas that he could use this as leverage to save Gabriel, who has tons of soothing memories, because he panics on hearing his "baby brother" is going to be Released.
  • 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 Blind Confusion: Inverted, as it's Jonas realizing he can see red while the rest of The Community can't that makes him stand out. All of the members of The Community are color blind since birth, and have apparently been deliberately made so through genetic engineering. When protagonist Jonas realizes this and specifically that he can see the color red while they can't, it contributes to him finding out the truth about their way of life.
  • 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.
    • Played very well when Jonas is disturbed to discover that the Giver's intercom system has an off switch — while the fact that every room in the community contains an intercom without one has never bothered him.
  • 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.
    • "Discipline wands" are used for other early childhood "misdeeds" as well — starting when a child begins walking (a milestone that is generally reached around one year old).
    • According to Fiona, the Old are also punished this way if they misspeak (or, presumably, "misbehave" in various other ways). Keep in mind that a good number of them are likely to be suffering from some form of dementia (although presumably they're "released" before it can get serious) — and thus are being punished for things they can't even control.
  • 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.
  • Daddy's Girl:
    • Lily appears to be this (at least to the extent that that sort of thing is possible in the Community).
    • Heavily implied to have been the case with the Giver's daughter Rosemary.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: A four-year-old boy named Caleb wanders away and drowns in the river.
  • 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.
  • Didn't See That Coming: For all the community's thought-out plans to keep everyone orderly, they didn't consider that the token Receiver of Memory wouldn't want to bear all the pain and pleasure from the past. Rosemary's suicide took them by shock, and no one anticipates Jonas's rebellion.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A Pilot-in-training is Released to Elsewhere for a navigational error. The Giver reveals that when the Elders asked him whether they should shoot it down, he counseled them to wait upon remembering times of war.
  • Driven to Suicide: Rosemary applies for Release after a few days of unhappy memories, and she injected herself when they asked her to roll up her sleeve. The Giver implies that he will follow her once the Community no longer needs him.
  • Dystopia: A society that has gotten rid of pain and conflict through "The Sameness."
  • Erotic Dream: Jonas' dream of his "favorite female friend," Fiona (in which he is shirtless and trying to convince her to remove her clothes so he can give her a bath), which prompts his mother to start giving him the pills.
    • When he later STOPS taking the pills, he has several more "pleasurable" dreams — though who/what they're about is not stated.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: "Precision of language" is a very big deal in the Community. The Chief Elder tells a story of when Asher was a toddler and demanded 'a smack', when he wanted a snack... so the Instructor smacked him. Later, when Jonas asks his parents if they love him, he is chastised for using a word that is so vague and imprecise it's practically obsolete.
  • 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.
  • Fictional Age of Majority: The book begins with Jonas going through his Ceremony of Twelve, in which twelve-year-old members of his community are given their "Assignments" (i.e. jobs) and become legal adults. The Film of the Book gives the characters an Age Lift and changes the age of majority to 18.
  • First Time in the Sun: Among the memories Jonas gets from the Receiver is one of the sun, suggesting it's somehow filtered out.
  • Forbidden Holiday: The community has banned any form of emotion and individuality, and that includes holidays. Nobody even knows that the holidays used to exist, save for the Receiver and Giver of Memory. While there actually is at least one 'holiday' seen in the book, it's simply a day off from work and school, with no actual celebration or deeper meaning behind it.
  • 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.
  • 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 repeatedly 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.

    H to P 
  • 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.
  • 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 inappropriate term..."
  • Important Haircut: During the Ceremony of Ten, girls lose their braids and boys' hair is cut short.
  • 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 serious rules three times 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: The Receiver/Giver is one of these, at least.
  • Laser-Guided Broadcast: The announcements given in the community are phrased as general reminders (e.g. about how one's clothing should be kept neat), but are clearly addressed at very specific individuals (i.e. at someone who doesn't keep their shirt tucked).
  • 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.
  • Loophole Abuse: The previous Receiver-in-Training, Rosemary, was able to apply for Release because at the time there wasn't a rule against it. After she died, and the Community suffered the six weeks of memories she had, they added a rule that Jonas isn't allowed to apply for Release.
  • 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.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The Community off-screen when Jonas runs away with Gabriel. The Giver also mentions that they had the same reaction after the previous Receiver-In-Training's failure.
  • 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 would never be used again after her death forced the Community to remember the vivid emotions they had left behind.
  • Mentor's New Hope: This is part of the back story: The Receiver of Memory who mentors Jonas is revealed to have had another protégé in the past, his own daughter, who committed suicide out of despair brought on by the knowledge she received from her mentor, and was Unpersoned by the Community.
  • Monochrome Casting: The only time a non-Anglo name is mentioned is Father's childhood acquaintance Yoshiko, and the only time a non-White person is mentioned is in one of Jonas's memories of war. Also applies to the movies where there are no non-White cast members.
  • Mood Whiplash: There is a nice scene where Jonas watches his father give the smaller of newborn twin brothers a check-up. It's so nice and lovely, and... Wait, what'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"?!?!
  • Mind Screw: The ending is ambiguous enough that readers can easily become hopelessly confused, especially without reading the sequels.
  • Never Say "Die": Nobody dies in the Community, they are "released" — or in rare cases, "lost".
  • Newspeak: The Community enforces what is 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 Community would really let anyone starve is seen as extremely problematic.) They can still play pretend, though, so it doesn't hamper their imaginative thinking. Additionally, due to the Giver system, a great deal of the very concepts of the old world (starvation, 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 don't even 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.
  • 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, she doesn't understand the implications of such an act.
    • Jonas's father is a gentle, caring Nurturer (a person who takes care of newchildren at a special "Nurturing Center" before they're assigned to a family unit) who appears to genuinely enjoy (at least to the extent that a Community member can enjoy anything!) his job and his young charges. He even convinces the Elders to allow him and his family unit to effectively foster Gabriel until the next Ceremony of One in the hopes that they can help him overcome his developmental delays (and thus avoid Release). Of course, the reader (and Jonas) do eventually learn that he also routinely euthanizes newchildren who are deemed unfit to be part of the community (in some cases simply because they were unfortunate enough to be the smaller of a set of identical twins). However, like Fiona, he honestly has no idea of what he's actually doing because he literally cannot comprehend it. In the film he eventually does realize the sordid truth — when Jonas's memories are returned to the Community- and he is absolutely horrified).
  • No Blood Ties: Babies are produced by women whose job title is Birthmother, 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 Birthmothers are artificially inseminated (which is confirmed in Son).
  • No Ending: Was the house Jonas saw at the end real and he actually escaped, or was it just a dream or hallucination caused by the final stages of hypothermia? 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 Name Given: Jonas's parents names are never mentioned- they are always referred to simply as "Mother" and "Father".
  • 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. The Giver mentions this when Jonas protests that Fiona must be horrified during her training of caring for the Old.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: After Rosemary applied for Release, died, and unleashed her memories on the Community, Jonas has a new rule saying that he cannot apply for Release.
  • 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".
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Jonas after he gets his first memory of serious pain, and realizing that he can't return from that point.
    • The Giver had this in the past when learning that Rosemary, his daughter, applied for Release.
    • Also Jonas when he learns that Release is actually euthanasia, and his father murders infants.
  • 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.
    • Rosemary is about as straight an example of this as you can possibly get. After she Released herself, causing her memories to escape into the Community and cause chaos, the Elders retired her name, forbidding it to be given to any newchild going forward.
  • 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 they 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 this society sought to eliminate war and prejudice, among other things, and apparently succeeded, but at a great cost. Just about everyone in the Community is content and safe, but they experience only the most shallow of emotions, no longer have things like color and animals, and lack freedom and rights, to the point that everyone's entire life is decided for them. Causing even a minor inconvenience to the status quo can result in "release" - mandatory euthanasia.
  • Political Overcorrectness: 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 the ability to see 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 Birthmothers who are never seen)- one male and one female- and every citizen begins taking medication during puberty to suppress "the Stirrings".
  • Population Control: Every family unit is allowed two children, one girl and one boy. If a child dies, the parents can apply to be given another baby of the same gender and same name as a replacement. However, they come from Birthmothers, who only have 3 children, then a lifetime of menial labor. Even then, only 50 newchildren are given to family units each December.

    Q to Z 
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Brave New World FOR KIDS!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: To the Community, summed up in a single line by The Giver: "They know nothing."
  • Red Herring:
    • One of Jonas's rules is that he's not allowed to apply for Release. The Giver outright states that the Receiver-in-Training cannot apply for Release because the community can't handle the emotional memories, not even the good ones and certainly not the bad ones. With all this, however, Jonas doesn't face the threat of Release. Instead, Gabriel does.
      • However, it is mentioned that this rule came about because the last receiver did apply for release. Knowing this leads to Jonas and the Giver's eventual plan.
    • Asher gets into a mild argument with Jonas when the latter begs his friends to not play a war game after Jonas suffers a flashback. It seems to imply that Asher will become an antagonist. Instead, Jonas drifts from Asher and Fiona as they all go deep into their training.
  • 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 doctor 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 implications 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 protégé (his own daughter) that failed many years ago and has had to carry on as the Receiver 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.
    • Subverted with Jonas and the previous Receiver-In-Training. The Giver loved them both, but while Jonas was his friend, Rosemary was his daughter.
  • 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.
  • The Runaway: Jonas runs away close to the climax with Gabriel, using his father's bike. A teenage boy on the run with a two-year old, hiding from search planes and starving. Another book, Son, revealed that Jonas's father was frantic on realizing his children were missing — keep in mind this would have been right when his feelings were returning.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Leans towards idealism. Though the seemingly Utopian setting is thoroughly and horrifically Deconstructed, Jonas and The Giver still pursue change and decide that it's better for the Community to remember humanity's past, both good and bad, than to stay ignorant and complacent. The ending, though ambiguous, is also fairly hopeful.
  • 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 their 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.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Rosemary went against the script upon learning the true significance of their memories. Rosemary applied for release after six weeks, despite the fact that her bad memories were less painful and far fewer than Jonas's. This led to the Giver grieving her death, since she was his daughter, and the Community suffering the sudden influx of memories. If not for Rosemary, the Giver wouldn't have shown Jonas what Release was, or considered Jonas suggesting that things need to change.
    • Jonas himself refuses to be a typical Receiver-Of-Memory and hold all of his knowledge to be an involuntary consultant for the Community, while knowing what death and love are. He and the Giver initially plan for him to fake his death and make it to Elsewhere, but he leaves sooner than they planned to save Gabriel's life.
  • 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.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: Rosemary applied for Release six weeks into her training. She was made an Unperson and the Community refused to pass on her name to new babies.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Birthmothers receive their jobs at the tender age of twelve. Not until Son is it confirmed that they start the job after only a year of training, therefore they have their three children from the ages of 14 to 16 before becoming Laborers. 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.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Despite being middle grade and published before YA Lit was even a thing, the book reads like a Deconstruction of modern YA Dystopians: Jonas is much younger than most YA Dystopia protagonists, the love story is more familial than romantic, and the Community was not set up in response to a rebellion that we know of. Most striking of all, however, is the fact that those within the Community are perfectly happy with their way of life and even believe it to be ideal. Things get chilling when we see the Community's casual support of euthanizing a pilot who made a single, non-lethal error, and veer into full-on horror when Jonas' dad "releases" an infant.
  • Unperson:
    • 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 and his parents are given a new child with the 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, most of Jonas's significant early memories are weather-related: his first memory is of taking a sled ride in the snow, his first painful memory is getting a sunburn, and his first truly painful memory is another sled ride, this one ending in a broken leg. 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 Memory (and his protégé) 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 identical twins, and babies that don't develop correctly (with the "issue" sometimes being as simple as the baby being unable to sleep through the night), 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 first 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 that his gentle, caring 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 choose the ones they adopt. And they take pills to quash hormonal urges and sex drive, so natural children couldn't be a thing even if they were wanted, which is good since even spouses are barred from seeing each other naked.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • The Giver refuses to leave the Community with Jonas. He explains that someone has to take care of the Community, while Jonas can make better change by leaving. Jonas tries to persuade him, but the Giver is firm and says he wants to join his daughter Rosemary eventually.
      • To join Rosemary would, in fact, mean being released himself — something which he mentions that he often thinks of when containing the memories is too much for him. This may be less than noble, since it implies that he wants to die... which, if he does before the people in the community have dealt with the memories, would probably destroy the Community and their way of life, and give him revenge for the death of his daughter.
  • 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... or this is what he at least imagines as he is fading from consciousness and probably dying from hypothermia, before he is presumably rescued.
  • The World Is Not Ready: Or, at least, The Community is not ready for the memories Jonas and the Giver plan on unleashing. This is part of why the Giver chooses to stay with the Community to help them through it.
  • World of No Grandparents: Invoked. The Community doesn't even have the concept of grandparents - Jonas is completely unfamiliar with them before the Giver's explanation. Family units are used solely as a mechanism for raising children and family roles solely consist of mother/father, son/daughter, and brother/sister. And once children grow to adulthood, even these relationships essentially dissolve.
  • 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 "love" 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.
    • The jobs that are described (both by the Ceremony and Jonas's parents) include Engineer, Doctor, Rehabilitation Specialist... but the ratio of these jobs to laborers to birthmothers is way off for this to be a functional community.
  • You Are Number 6:
    • People have serial numbers besides their names. When children behave badly, their parents sometimes call them by their number, suggesting that a bad child is not worthy of a name.
    • Related is the fact that, in the community, children's ages are used as nouns rather than descriptors; for example, "a Four" or "all the Elevens".

"But perhaps, it was only an echo."