Jonas, the novel's 11-year-old protagonist, is nervous about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve. While struggling to find the right word to define his feelings, he decides he is apprehensive rather than frightened. The only time he can remember being frightened was when a strange plane flew over the community the year before. Afterward, the Speaker for the community announced over the loudspeakers that the pilot had been punished by being "released," a word which Jonas knows should only be used with caution. He once used it jokingly to his friend Asher, and was reprimanded for it. Asher, however, is not always as careful with his use of words, and is always getting in trouble for it.
The opening of The Giver plunges the reader into Jonas's unfamiliar world. That Jonas can only remember one time when he was frightened implies that his community is very safe. However, the loudspeakers spouting instructions and the fate of the pilot make it clear that this community is also very structured and rule-based, and that rule-breaking leads to punishment. The emphasis on precise language implies that the community is very rational.
After dinner that night, Jonas's family engages in the nightly "telling of feelings," in which each person shares a troubling feeling from the day in order to try to resolve it. Jonas's sister Lily says she was angry when a visiting group of Sevens (seven-year-olds) disobeyed the rules on the playground. Jonas's mother tries to make Lily see that maybe the visitors felt strange and unused to the rules of playground. After thinking about it, Lily realizes that her mother is right.
At this point in the novel, the "telling of feelings," seems like a wonderful ritual in which families share and help each other to resolve issues and problems maturely. Jonas's family seems caring and committed to each other. The continued strong emphasis on rules is a bit unsettling, however.
Jonas's father is a Nurturer, which means he cares for the community's babies, or newchildren. He explains that he's worried about a newchild who's growing too slowly and isn't sleeping well at night. Sick babies, like the elderly, are released. He hopes he can help the newchild get better and asks the family for permission to bring him home at night to care for him.
Jonas's father seems especially caring. The repetition of the word "release," first in connection to the pilot and here to the struggling infant, establishes it as important. By not explaining what "release" is, the novel builds tension around it.
Lily jokes that maybe their family can keep the newchild. But her mother scolds her. She tells Lily to remember the rules: only one male and one female child can be assigned to each family.
Strict limits on children and children "assigned" to families reveal this society's emphasis on putting rules above personal choice or emotion.
After Jonas's mother explains her worries about a criminal who came before her as a second offender in the Department of Justice and will be released after a third offense, Jonas describes his apprehension about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve, in which he will be assigned the job he will have for the rest of his life.
Another mention of "release." Just as children are assigned to families, people work in assigned jobs. The members of this society seem to have no choice at all in the direction of their lives. Just as interesting is that they seem not to mind.