“There’s nothing we can do. It’s always been this way.”
Jonas explains that he is curious about release because his father released a newchild that day. The Giver says that he wishes that newchildren were not released, and Jonas reminds him that it would be confusing to have two identical people walking around. The Giver tells Jonas that, as Receiver, he is allowed to have access to any information he wants and that if he wants to watch a release, he can. Since all private ceremonies are recorded, Jonas can even watch his father’s release of the newchild that morning. Jonas agrees to watch it, and the Giver calls the recording up on a video screen. Jonas watches as his father weighs the twins, then gently injects something into a vein in the smaller one’s head. The newchild twitches and lies still, and Jonas realizes that it is dead. He recognizes the gestures and posture of the boy that he saw die on the battlefield. Horrified, he watches his father place the body in a garbage chute and wave goodbye. The Giver tells Jonas that he watched the recording of Rosemary’s release. She had been told to roll up her sleeve, but she chose to inject herself.
Jonas is overcome by pain and horror when he realizes what release really is. He starts crying and refuses to go home to his family, knowing that his father lied to him about what would happen to the newchild. He cannot believe that his friend Fiona efficiently kills the Old when they are released. The Giver allows Jonas to spend the night with him and tries to explain that the people of his community do not feel things the way that he and Jonas do. He tells Jonas that Jonas has helped him to decide that things have to change, that the memories have to be shared.
The Giver and Jonas come up with a plan: Jonas will escape from the community, leaving all his memories for the people of the community. Jonas begs the Giver to come with him, but the Giver explains that someone needs to stay to help the others deal with those memories, or the community will be thrown into utter chaos. Jonas says that he does not want to care about the other people, but he knows that the only reason he and the Giver devised the plan is because they do care about the others. The Giver tells Jonas that he himself is too weak to make the journey anyway. He cannot even see colors anymore. Jonas asks the Giver about his early experiences with seeing beyond, how they were different from Jonas’s own, and the Giver tells him that he heard beyond. He heard music, something Jonas would not understand because the Giver has kept music to himself.
For the next two weeks, the Giver plans to transmit memories of courage and strength to help Jonas with his journey. At midnight on the night before the Ceremony, Jonas will slip out of his house with an extra set of clothing, which he will hide by the riverbank next to his bicycle. The next day, the Giver will order a vehicle for a visit to another community, hide Jonas in the storage area, and give him a head start on his journey to Elsewhere. The Giver will tell the community that Jonas has been lost in the river, they will perform the Ceremony of Loss, and he will help them bear Jonas’s memories. The Giver tells Jonas that afterward, he will be with his daughter, Rosemary.
When Jonas finally understands that his father killed the newchild when he released it, we understand why he is horrified, feeling that his father has betrayed his trust. As readers, we feel along with Jonas that his community is cruel to condone the murder of children and the Old. However, the death of the infant seems infinitely more horrific to Jonas than it would to almost anyone else who lived in his community: Jonas and the Giver are the only people who know what death really means. Jonas is horrified because the movements of the dying baby echo the movements of the dying boy in the memory, and he associates those movements with pain, thirst, and misery. If Lily or Asher or even Fiona were to see the death throes of the baby, they might not understand what the baby is feeling—and in fact the baby probably does not feel much when it dies, since Jonas’s father is so gentle. But a year’s worth of transmitted memories have taught Jonas to think of death as we think of death—something horrible to be avoided at all costs.
Jonas’s unequivocal disgust at the baby’s death must be heightened by the fact that there is no good reason to eliminate the baby, except that it looks too much like its brother: the baby’s life would not have been extremely difficult, nor would it have put his brother’s life in danger. It just would have made life a little bit more inconvenient for the members of the community. Jonas does not recoil at the baby’s death just because he senses that it is in pain. He has also grown to understand the worth of an individual human being as well as how humans in the past struggled to preserve life in the face of war, sickness, and natural disasters. It disgusts him to see his father throwing away the precious uniqueness that the baby probably has to offer, and the casual nature of his death seems like an insult to all of the people who have struggled so hard to survive.
At this point in the novel, Jonas’s emotional reaction to the baby’s death overcomes him, to the point where he ceases to care what happens to the other members of the society. Having grown up acting only for the community’s good, with little thought to any desires that might not serve the community, Jonas now holds the opposite point of view. He only wants to rescue himself and the Giver from the dangerous, suffocating atmosphere of the community. Instead of having no strong emotions at all, he has given himself entirely to his emotions. Now the Giver has to restrain him, using logic to explain that the Giver has to stay to help the community if the plan is to have any effect. When he explains this to Jonas, the Giver demonstrates an ideal blend of logical, orderly thought and human compassion. Jonas and the Giver are acting in the best interests of the community, but they are using their emotions and compassion—things that the community rejects—to help it.
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