The Giver


Chapters 14–16

Summary Chapters 14–16

Jonas’s attempt to reach out to his parents fails when they tell him that they do not love him. They emphasize precision of language, but that particular kind of precision actually limits the expressiveness of their language. Jonas knows that the feeling of love exists and that to reduce it to simpler feelings, like enjoyment and pride, is useless as well as imprecise. We see how the “precise” language the community uses for things often drains them of meaning: “pride” and “enjoyment” do not express the feeling of love, and “release” does not express the idea of death. Although we do not know for sure at this point in the novel that release is death, we have a strong suspicion. The use of the word “release,” though it might be technically correct, makes it too easy to ignore what really happens when someone dies.

Jonas’s attempts to connect with Gabriel are much more successful. In possibly breaking the rules of his Assignment by transmitting memories to the baby, Jonas is also breaking a more unspoken rule against forming too close a bond with an individual. After experiencing the Christmas scene, with grandparents who remain part of their children’s lives long after their practical function as parents is finished, Jonas craves the kind of close, selfish relationship with another human that his society discourages. He says he understands that this kind of close family life is a “dangerous” way to live, trying to justify his statement by saying that the candles and fire in the loving family’s living room are dangerous to have indoors. The fire and candles, however, serve as symbols for the warmth and light of human love, and that love is dangerous because it would upset the delicate balance of Jonas’s society. But warmth and light are necessary for survival, and Jonas begins to feel that love is too. It is important to note that the depiction of the family at Christmas seems to idealize the traditional family group and reject the system of Nurturers and Caretakers presented by Jonas’s community. This rejection is based on the lack of love and lasting relationships to be found within Jonas’s community, and not necessarily on its nontraditional structure. This need for close relationships and desire for the strong emotion that accompanies them influences Jonas’s decision to stop taking his pills.

Jonas stops taking the pills just so he can experience the sensation of wanting something, not because he has hopes to start a sexual relationship with another person. He wants to feel capable of making choices, and he wants to want things—nothing will change if he does not want it to very badly. The only person he can connect with, besides the Giver, is the newchild Gabriel. As a new human being, Gabriel symbolizes the hope for change. Jonas can give Gabriel his memories and his love because he has not yet been conditioned to live like everyone else in the community.