Jonas’s father, a Nurturer, is responsible for handling the early development of newborn babies before they are assigned to their families – this is how he first encounters Gabriel. Gabriel is an infant who isn’t developing at the rate of the other children in his group and is at risk of being released. Jonas’ father receives permission to give Gabriel round-the-clock care in the family home in the hopes that the child will meet his developmental milestones.
Like Jonas, Gabriel has pale eyes, prompting his family to suggest that they might come from the same Birthmother. Later, however, it becomes clear that the pale eyes are not just an aesthetic trait – they allow both Jonas and Gabriel to see “beyond” the confines of their society, particularly via the ability to give and receive memories. In fact, Jonas begins to transmit some of his memories to Gabriel, using beautiful and calming scenic images to help the infant sleep through the night. Later, when Gabriel is marked for release, the baby becomes a symbol of what stands to be saved if Jonas escapes the Community. The Community’s treatment of Gabriel exposes its shocking lack of morality. Gabriel’s faults – being small for his group and struggling to sleep through the night – are enough to warrant his euthanizing, because the Community values sameness and standardized metrics over unique, individual human life.
When Jonas rescues Gabriel and brings him on the journey to Elsewhere, he saves Gabriel’s life and gives the baby a chance to be raised in a society that is not emotionally and morally stunted. As Jonas’s journey becomes increasingly difficult, he admits at one point that he is only pushing through for Gabriel’s sake: “He wept because he was afraid now that he could not save Gabriel. He no longer cared about himself.” Jonas finds the will to survive via protecting Gabriel, because that innocent child, who is already profoundly connected to Jonas through shared memory, represents the hope of a new and better life.