Lowry uses foreshadowing throughout the novel to create suspense by suggesting a dark undercurrent to a seemingly perfect society. The novel begins with Jonas feeling “frightened” (or, as he later corrects himself, “apprehensive”) about the approach of December. As readers, we do not initially know the significance of the final month of the year to Jonas, and Lowry's repeated references (“It was almost December,” “now with December approaching,” “He had waited a long time for this special December”) build our curiosity. The desire to learn the differences between Jonas's world and our own helps to drive the novel forward. Although some of our curiosity is satisfied early on (we learn quickly that Jonas’s Assignment will be given to him in December), other revelations are delayed until much later.
The Previous Receiver of Memory's Fate
Lowry foreshadows future disclosures by creating mysteries around past events, such as what happened to the last child who was selected as the Receiver of Memory. Right after Jonas is named the next Receiver, the Elder says, “We failed in our last selection.” Then, rather than explain what happened, he says, “I will not dwell on the experience because it causes us all terrible discomfort.” It is not until ten chapters later that we learn that Rosemary, the girl in question, requested her own release. Even then we do not know exactly what it means to be released, and the revelation that Rosemary was the Giver's own daughter is withheld till nearly the end of the book.
The Meaning of "Released"
Much of the darkness of the novel relates to the way in which citizens are “released” from the community. This strand is set up very early on. In the first chapter, Jonas remembers the time when a trainee pilot made an error, and an announcement came: “Needless to say, he will be released.” At this point, the reader does not know what happens when one is “released,” although we are given some indication, as Jonas reflects it is “a terrible punishment.” Lowry continues to drop hints about what the releases entail. Jonas asks Larissa, one of the Elders, “[W]hat happens when they make the actual release?” Our desire to know the answer to this question, as well as Jonas's, is thwarted. Larissa responds, “I don't know. I don't think anybody does, except the committee.” The fact that the leaders of the community keep the nature of the releases secret hints that there is something sinister about them. As the novel progresses, Lowry makes more and more references to people being released. This steadily builds the tension surrounding this mysterious practice, which culminates climactically in Jonas watching a video recording of his father releasing a newchild.