The Giver

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The Giver Character Analysis

Known as the Receiver until Jonas becomes his trainee, The Giver is a kind, elderly man whose breadth of experience through memory makes him look and seem older than he actually is. Although he lives in luxurious quarters and does not have a very active life, he is weighted down by the memories he carries and is often subjected to crippling pain. He is wise and patient with Jonas, and grows to love him as he loved his previous trainee, Rosemary. His grief and sense of hopelessness after Rosemary's death is later transformed into enthusiasm for Jonas's idea for escape. The Giver demonstrates total selflessness by offering to remain behind in order to help the community cope with the influx of memories. He willingly offers Jonas his most precious memories of love and music, and his selflessness inspires Jonas to risk his own life to save Gabriel.

The Giver Quotes in The Giver

The The Giver quotes below are all either spoken by The Giver or refer to The Giver. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of The Giver published in 2012.
Chapter 11 Quotes
I have a great honor. So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power.
Related Characters: The Giver (speaker), Jonas
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

During their first training session, the Giver gives Jonas a memory of sliding down a snow-covered hill, something that does not exist in the Community. Jonas wishes aloud that the Giver could bring back such a delightful activity using his power. In this quote, the Giver points out that while his Assignment brings great honor--as does Jonas's--this is very different than having power. 

The Receiver's job is to contain all the memories--good and bad--that exist from before the Sameness. This is to ensure that they are not present in the Community for anyone else to access. This functions as a form of control for the governing Elders, who impose the Sameness without any discord due to the fact that no one has any memory or concept of what came before their present structured lives. This completely removes any possibility of hindsight for anyone but the Receiver, who is occasionally called upon to advise the Elders. Though he can draw on years and years of memories, he is rarely listened to, leaving him with an unbearable amount of wisdom that he alone knows how to use, and no one else can (or wants to) understand. 

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Chapter 12 Quotes
Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with difference. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others. >
Related Characters: The Giver (speaker)
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

When Jonas tells the Giver about seeing a change in Fiona's hair, similar to what he saw in the apple, the Giver tells Jonas that he is beginning to see the color red. He explains that before the Sameness, everything was different colors. The fact that Jonas can see "beyond" the colorlessness of the Sameness proves his worth as a Receiver. The Community, explains the Giver, gave up certain choices in order to impose harmony and peace.

The lack of differences that the Sameness imposed upon the Community extends not just to visual blandness, but to emotional sterility as well. By sacrificing almost everything that makes things and people different--the seasons, colors, bonds, biological children, etc.--the Community is largely devoid of strong emotions and feelings. There is rarely such a thing as having a strong affinity or aversion to someone or something since everything is more or less the same, or is at least an understood event or rule that is necessary for the good of the Community.

The Giver and Jonas alone understand the importance of having choice in one's life--it leads to a personal identity created by a series of unique choices that one makes, and leads to a vast amount of self-discovery in the process. A complete lack of choices makes life utterly predictable and indistinguishable from the life of virtually any other member of the Community, give or take a few instances. Despite this overwhelming revelation, the burden of wisdom does not immediately translate into acquisition of power, and the Giver has been unable to bring about any real change to the Community. 

Chapter 13 Quotes
Sometimes I wish they'd ask for my wisdom more often-there are so many things I could tell them; things I wish they would change. But they don't want change. Life here is so orderly, so predictable-so painless. It's what they've chosen.
Related Characters: The Giver (speaker)
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

The Giver warns Jonas that the secrecy of his position means that he cannot tell anyone, even a future spouse, about the nature of his memories. No one in the Community, not even Instructors, know as much as he does. Yet, the Elders rarely come to him for advice on issues such as changing the rules, though the Giver knows he has much wisdom to impart upon life in the Community. 

In this quote, the Giver reasons that the Elders don't want to hear his suggestions because they like life the way it is: orderly, neat, and utterly devoid of pain. The Community functions on the philosophy that a lack of pain means the presence of happiness; the Giver and Jonas know this is utterly untrue. True humanity results from both suffering and joy, and the two emotions are simply a fact of life. By depriving Community members of physical and mental strife, happiness doesn't automatically fill the void: they are also deprived of understanding what real love, individuality, friendship, and passion are as human emotions. Mistakes are also an intrinsic part of the human experience, and the rigid rules of the Community remove all choice from one's personal life to the point that everything--from one's parents, to one's spouse, to one's death date--is determined by a counsel of Elders. To remove choice is to completely remove individuality, rendering each member another flesh-and-bone unit of a well-oiled machine. Yet it does function, and the counsel is not interested in hearing the Giver's suggestions as to how to make it more vibrant and closer to the natural human experience. 

Chapter 16 Quotes
"I couldn't quite get the word for the whole feeling of it, the feeling that was so strong in the room."
"Love," The Giver told him.
Related Characters: Jonas (speaker), The Giver (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Jonas asks what the Giver's favorite memory is, and he offers to give it to Jonas. It is a memory of several generations of people sitting around a green tree with colored lights, and a pleasurable feeling that Jonas does not have a name for. The Giver tells Jonas that the people are grandparents--the parents of parents of children--and that the feeling he experienced was love. 

As a member of a society where strong feelings are repressed, Jonas has no idea that he has not felt the full range of human emotions due to the rules of the Community. Though ritual stipulates that he shares his feelings with his family each evening, and they do the same, this new feeling of love makes Jonas come to realize that everything he has supposedly "felt" his entire life have just been words assigned to the shadows of emotions. By experiencing this feeling of love, Jonas finally has a concept of what it means to feel true bonds between people, unlike anything the strictly divided social system of the Community allows. Jonas only knows how to assign words to very specific feelings, like "apprehension," and is overwhelmed by a feeling that is difficult to contain in a word, though the Giver provides him with "love." It is this memory that will ultimately fuel Jonas to want to leave the Community and release his memories, so that the people that he feels love for will one day understand what it means that their feelings have been restricted, and perhaps reciprocate love for him as well. 

Chapter 18 Quotes
Memories are forever.
Related Characters: The Giver (speaker)
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

The Giver tells Jonas about what happened when Rosemary, the previous Receiver, applied for release: when she went Elsewhere, all of her memories were also released into the Community, and caused widespread panic. Jonas asks what would happen if he drowned in the river, and the Giver warns him severely against anything that would cause his death: only five weeks' worth of memories were released when Rosemary died, but a whole years' worth would escape if Jonas did. Though the Community does its best to suppress all the memories of life before the Sameness, as the Giver notes here, they can never truly go away; "Memories are forever."

Though the people who imposed the Sameness were extremely thorough in ironing out any differences in society--sexual preferences, colors, ages after Twelve, ill-chosen spouses or careers, friendships, relationships, and so on--there was only so much they could do due to the fact that memories never truly go away. Thus, the role of the Receiver was born, a terribly painful and isolating position in which one is given artificial "honor" to bear every joy and every pain felt throughout time. Though Jonas is distraught the more he learns how sterilized his life has been, he and the Giver are mildly comforted by the fact that what they alone can feel will continue to be felt, at least by one singular member of the Community, for the rest of time. No matter how many pills or rules are created, memories will never disappear to an elusive "Elsewhere." 

Chapter 20 Quotes
"Having you here with me over the past year has made me realize that things must change. For years I've felt that they should, but it seemed so hopeless. Now for the first time I think there might be a way," The Giver said slowly.
Related Characters: The Giver (speaker), Jonas
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

After seeing the video of his father release the newchild, Jonas is inconsolable. He refuses to leave the Giver's room, and demands that he and the Giver do something to force the Community to stop living in ignorance. In this quote, the Giver slowly comes to the conclusion that perhaps there is a way to impose the memories onto the Community, and to help them cope with the onslaught of feelings so that they can finally understand what it means to know of strong emotions. 

Like Jonas, the Giver felt incredibly isolated by his role as Receiver, one that left him completely alone, save for the few weeks that he trained Rosemary. Having known love for her, whom he later reveals to be his daughter, her loss was particularly difficult for him to bear, since no one else in the Community understands what it means to love, let alone lose someone that you love. The only thing giving him the will to continue bearing these memories alone was the belief that by feeling these things, he was infinitely wiser and more human than those who live and die by the Sameness. Yet now, with two minds sharing the memories, the Giver and the Receiver are inspired to find a way to force the Community to bear these memories too, and thus finally feel the joys and pain that the Giver and Receiver currently bear alone. 

Chapter 21 Quotes
Though he had never seen one before, he identified it from his fading memories, for The Giver had given them to him often. It was a bird.
Related Characters: Jonas, The Giver
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

While everyone is at the annual Ceremony, Jonas escapes away from the bounds of the Community with a pack of food and Gabe strapped to his Father's bicycle. After some time, airplanes come trying to look for them, which they deftly hide from. One day, Gabe cries that he sees an airplane, but Jonas looks up and sees something else flying in the sky. He immediately identifies it as a bird, something that he has only seen in memories before, since no animals beyond fish for food exist within the Community.

The sight of the bird gives Jonas the first real-life taste of his own experience of something that he has previously seen only in a memory. It shows him that other things he knows from memories, but not from personal experience, like the ocean and war and elephants and snow and sledding, really do exist in the world and are out there for him to find now that he has escaped from the Community. It also shows the reader that the Sameness exists only within the bounds of the Community, and perhaps other settlements of people exist where all of these ideals previously intangible to Jonas may be right at his fingertips. The sight and understanding of this bird fuels Jonas to keep on pedaling, to save and enrich both he and Gabe's lives. 

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The Giver Character Timeline in The Giver

The timeline below shows where the character The Giver appears in The Giver. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...of the Old, where a desk attendant unlocks a door and respectfully directs Jonas to The Receiver 's room. Jonas is surprised because no doors are ever locked. The attendant tells Jonas... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
The Receiver 's quarters are more luxurious and spacious than any houses in the community. His bed... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Receiver is old and grey, and tells Jonas that he is going to use his last... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Receiver describes himself as weighed down by memories, like a sled traveling downhill but slowed by... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
The Receiver instructs Jonas to lie on his stomach. He walks over to the wall speaker, which... (full context)
Chapter 11
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Receiver places his hands on Jonas's back and transmits the memory of sledding down a hill:... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Afterward, The Receiver tells Jonas that other people do not have the memories of sledding or hills or... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Receiver next gives Jonas a memory of sunshine. At Jonas's request, he then gives Jonas his... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
As Jonas leaves for the day, The Receiver tells Jonas not to call him "The Receiver" any longer, since Jonas is actually the... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...way that the apple changed. When he arrives a minute late to his session with The Giver , The Giver asks him why he arrived late. He explains that the sight of... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...the community would want to get rid of the color red, which is so beautiful. The Giver responds that the community had to give up some things in order to gain control... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver explains that Fiona's hair is unlike other people's hair—just as Jonas's eyes are different from... (full context)
Chapter 13
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Jonas soon becomes angry that color has been removed from his world. He tells The Giver that he wants to choose things for himself, like which color shirt to wear in... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
One day soon after, The Giver gives Jonas a memory of an elephant killed by poachers, with its tusks cut off... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
One day, Jonas asks whether The Giver has a wife. The Giver says that he did, once, but now his wife was... (full context)
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver tells Jonas that he wishes the Committee of Elders would ask for his wisdom more... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Some afternoons, Jonas arrives for training and The Giver is hunched over in pain with a memory. On those days he sends Jonas away.... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
One day, Jonas asks The Giver to give him one of the painful memories. By taking a painful memory, Jonas realizes,... (full context)
Chapter 14
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver gives Jonas a memory of falling from the sled, breaking his leg and scraping his... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
After many more days in which The Giver transmits painful memories to him, Jonas, frustrated, asks The Giver why they have to hold... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver tells Jonas that people do not want memories of pain. The Receiver's job is so... (full context)
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Worried that he will be reprimanded or worse, Jonas decides not to tell The Giver about what he has done. He frightens himself with the thought that he has more... (full context)
Chapter 15
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The next day The Giver is in terrible pain, and he asks Jonas to take the memory he is having.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver is gentle with Jonas for days following the war memory. He gives Jonas wonderful memories... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
When Jonas asks The Giver to describe his favorite memory, The Giver tells Jonas he wants to give it to... (full context)
Chapter 18
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The next day, Jonas asks The Giver about release. The Giver responds that on days when his memories particularly pain him, he... (full context)
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Giver tells Jonas that her name was Rosemary, and that he loved her very much, the... (full context)
Chapter 19
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...in release stems from the fact that his father is releasing a twin that morning. The Giver wishes newchildren weren't released, then tells Jonas that as Receiver he can actually watch releases.... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver turns on the video screen, and he and Jonas watch as Jonas's father weighs the... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver explains that this is why he was so sad when Rosemary was released. He tells... (full context)
Chapter 20
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Jonas demands that they do something to stop the community from living in ignorance. The Giver argues that change is hopeless, and that the other people of the community don't feel... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Jonas and The Giver hatch a plan: Jonas will escape from the community, so that all of his memories... (full context)
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Giver tells Jonas he is not able to see colors anymore because he has given them... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
The Giver and Jonas decide that over the next two weeks, The Giver will transmit as many... (full context)
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
The Giver will stay behind and help people cope with their new memories. He tells Jonas that... (full context)
Chapter 21
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Jonas and The Giver 's plan hits a snag that night: at dinner, Jonas's father tells the family that... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...support him rather than all the memories of courage he had expected to have from The Giver , he rides across the river and out of the community. (full context)