was against the rules for children or adults to look at another’s
nakedness; but the rule did not apply to newchildren or the Old.
Jonas was glad. . . . He couldn’t see why it was necessary. He liked
the feeling of safety here in this warm and quiet room; he liked
the expression of trust on the woman’s face as she lay in the water
unprotected, exposed, and free.
In this quotation from Chapter 4,
Jonas’s mild exasperation with some of the community rules, combined
with the “trust” and “safety” he feels while bathing the woman,
subtly foreshadow the intense feelings of rebellion and the deep
longing for love that accompany his training for Receiver. We see
that,even before Jonas was exposed to the world of beauty, diversity,
and emotion that the Giver opens up for him, he has some understanding
of what is missing in his community, even though he still stays strictly
within the rules.
Especially noteworthy is Jonas’s use of the word “free”:
without her clothes, when she is “unprotected” and “exposed,” the
old woman is also free. Since her age and nakedness make her completely
vulnerable to Jonas, it seems odd that Larissa could be described
as free: any decision she makes can be easily vetoed, and any action
she makes can be suppressed. Yet she is free of her clothes, and
because of her age she is free of the social code that requires
citizens to conceal their nakedness. For Jonas, this freedom from
the social code is the most significant kind of freedom there is, and
freedom from clothing becomes a metaphor for freedom from social
conventions and rules. To be emotionally naked, for Jonas, is to
dispense with the formalities of strict politeness and precise language.
Jonas’s use of the word “free” also reveals that he is already thinking
about the limits his society puts on freedom.
The trust and safety he feels with the old woman also
foreshadows his relationships with the Giver, an older man whom
he begins to love like a grandfather, as well as his longing for
a close relationship with grandparents. The description of the Christmas
scene that teaches Jonas about grandparents evokes warmth and comfort
in the same way that the scene with Larissa does, showing that Jonas
is already sensitive to these pleasures.