The Giver

by: Lois Lowry

Important Quotations Explained

We really have to protect people from wrong choices.

Jonas speaks these words in Chapter 13, moments after having protested that he wished colors still existed so that people could have the pleasure and freedom of choosing between them. After some thought, his protests give way to the understanding that, if people were allowed to choose between colors, they might get so used to making choices that they would want to choose their jobs and their spouses. These are decisions that will have a serious effect on their lives and on the life of the community, and a wrong choice could be disastrous. In saying, “We really have to protect people from wrong choices,” Jonas gives voice to the unspoken philosophy of benevolent oppression that pervades all aspects of life in the community. He has probably never thought of it this way before. Until this point, most references to the Committee of Elders emphasize the wise choices they make for the community but fail to mention that they are preventing individuals from making their own decisions. However, Jonas has been steeped in this philosophy all his life, and it comes out naturally when he tries to understand the structure of his own society. The very idea of “wrong choices” implies that Jonas has grown up believing that some choices can be objectively wrong. In a community as rigidly structured as his own, wrong choices exist: choices that can disrupt and damage the entire society. If the members of the community want the peace and order that the community provides, they must submit totally to the rules that keep the community running smoothly, and that means allowing other, more knowledgeable people to make choices for them.

However, in making this statement, Jonas has uncovered the negative aspect of the community’s decision-making policies. In offering solutions to people who need them, the leaders of the community also prevent people from making their own choices. That this is done to protect them and that the choices are potentially wrong still cannot disguise the limitations imposed on the community members. These realizations bring Jonas a step closer to rebellion. Even as he says these words, he remains frustrated with the lack of color and choice in the community, and he begins to realize that his community’s precise system of logic pales next to the wonders of his new experiences.