The Giver

by: Lois Lowry

The Giver

Characters The Giver

Like Jonas, who is a young person with the wisdom of an old person, the Giver is a bit of a paradox. He looks ancient, but he is not old at all. Like someone who has seen and done many things over many years, he is very wise and world-weary, and he is haunted by memories of suffering and pain, but in reality his life has been surprisingly uneventful. In the world of the community, the Giver has spent most of his life inside his comfortable living quarters, eating his meals and emerging occasionally to take long walks. Yet he carries the memories of an entire community, so he feels like a man who has done more in his life than anyone else in the world: he has experienced the positive and negative emotions, desires, triumphs, and failures of millions of men and women, as well as animals. He is responsible for preserving those memories and using the wisdom they give him to make decisions for the community. Anyone would feel weighted down by this enormous responsibility, and because the Giver is forbidden to share his knowledge and pain with anyone else, including his spouse and his children, the weight is more difficult to bear. Thus, the Giver has become an exceptionally patient, quiet, deliberate person, growing resigned to the fact that he cannot change the community even though he realizes that it needs to be changed. He endures his loneliness and frustration as well as the increasing physical pain that the memories bring him with a quiet calm that makes him a rather stoic figure. His patience, wisdom, and restraint make him an excellent teacher and mentor.

However, the memories that the Giver carries inside him are too powerful for him to be entirely stoic: he still feels strong emotions, and under the right circumstances they surge to the surface. Among the members of the community, the Giver alone is capable of real love, an emotion he experiences with Rosemary, the first child who was designated to be the Receiver. Years of loneliness, isolation, and unshared emotion made the Giver’s love for Rosemary intense, even by the standards of the time before Sameness, and when she is taken from him, his anger and grief are equally intense. It is this anger and grief, fueled by the Giver’s growing love for Jonas and Jonas’s own youthful energy, that allow the Giver to finally overturn his years of silence and endurance and change the community. The decision is also influenced by the Giver’s aptitude as a teacher and advisor: it is natural for him to want to help the community learn to handle the memories, as he has helped Rosemary and Jonas.