The Giver

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The Snow-covered Hill Symbol Analysis

The Snow-covered Hill Symbol Icon
The hill, for Jonas, represents a gateway to Elsewhere. Riding a red sled down the hill is his first memory and his first awareness of the color red. It signifies his realization that outside his community there is a world not dominated by Sameness. Later, Jonas dreams of the hill and feels the need "to reach the something that waited in the distance," something "good…welcoming… [and] significant." Yet, through memories of the hill, Jonas learns the precarious relationship between joy and pain; without one, the other cannot exist. Jonas's first experience with real pain is falling off the same sled that thrilled him only days earlier.

The Snow-covered Hill Quotes in The Giver

The The Giver quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Snow-covered Hill. 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 13 Quotes
He wondered what lay in the far distance where he had never gone. The land didn't end beyond those nearby community. Were there hills Elsewhere? Were there vast wind-torn areas like the place he had seen in memory, the place where the elephants died?
Related Characters: Jonas
Related Symbols: The Snow-covered Hill
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

After speaking with the Giver about what happened when the previous Receiver was released, Jonas begins to wonder about what else he has been deprived of as a member of the Community. Though he has never wondered about what existed beyond or before the Community prior to his training, he now starts to long to experience and know more about the world. At this time in the novel, Jonas does not yet know that "Elsewhere" is a euphemism for death, one that Community members use to refer to the place where people go after release. Jonas and his friends assume it is another Community, one different than their own. Jonas begins to long to experience for himself the feelings--both pleasure and pain--that he sees in the Giver's memories, because they are so much more vibrant and rich than anything he has experienced inside the Community. 

It is for this very reason that the Community has a Receiver of Memories. If everyone had access to what life was like before the Sameness, when humans still had choice and passion and love, but also suffering and fear, then it would be much more difficult to impose utter structure and control over everyone inside. Jonas's Assignment is therefore a crucial part of the Elders control of society, and he can wield dangerous power to the sanctity of its rules if his memories are exposed to the public. 


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Chapter 14 Quotes
The sled hit a bump in the hill and Jonas was jarred loose and thrown violently into the air. He fell with his leg twisted under him, and could hear the crack of bone. His face scraped along jagged edges of ice… In his agony he perceived the world "fire" and felt flames licking at the torn bone and flesh.
Related Characters: Jonas
Related Symbols: The Snow-covered Hill
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

When Jonas arrives at the Giver's room for training each day after school, he often finds the old man in excruciating pain. The Giver usually shoos him away, and tells him to come back tomorrow. One day, Jonas insists that the Giver give him some of the painful memories so that he can relieve the burden. In this quote, the Giver gives Jonas another memory of sledding on a hill, though with an unhappy ending in the form of an excruciatingly painful broken leg. 

Since the major goal of life in the Community is to eradicate all suffering by reducing differences and strong emotions with a highly regimented way of life, Jonas has never known true mental or physical pain. He can recall once or twice when he crushed a finger or scraped a knee, but these minor aches and pains were always immediately relieved with a pill that acts as a pain panacea. Jonas has never known an unexpected pain that was not quickly cured. It is this first painful memory that shows Jonas why humankind, long ago, worked to create the Sameness that governs his present Community. Though Jonas still wishes his life were made richer by many of the things he has thus experienced in his training, he understands that the reasons behind the Sameness are more complicated than he realized. It also helps him to empathize with the pain of the Giver, a strong emotion predicated on care and understanding of another human being that sterile life in the Community suppresses. By beginning to comprehend what it truly means to experience pain, Jonas is also able to better understand the gravity and importance of pleasurable feelings like friendship or love as counterbalances in the human experience--or at least the human experience as it existed before the Sameness. 

Chapter 23 Quotes
For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo.
Related Characters: Jonas
Related Symbols: The Snow-covered Hill
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

One day during the escape, it begins to snow--Jonas and Gabe's first comprehension of this kind of weather, beyond the memories of sledding. Jonas must abandon his bike and carries Gabe. As they both begin to freeze and Jonas tries to conjure memories of warmth and sunshine, Jonas begins to see flashbacks of many memories: He and Gabe sliding down a hill together on a sled, into a warm room of colored lights, where the family that first taught him love is. 

In this quote, Jonas begins to hear something he has never heard before, but knows the word from the Giver: music. Because memories endure forever, Jonas can hear people doing what he assumes to be "singing" from long ago through "distances of space and time." This quote marks the end of the novel, and it is ambiguous as to what extent this sensation is real for Jonas: it could be that the two boys are finally happening upon a Community where love and warmth are realities, or it could be, sadly, that they are succumbing to the snow and dying. Regardless of what Gabe and Jonas's true fate is, by escaping the Community, they see, feel, and hear more than they ever would in a lifetime in the Sameness. This final experience for both boys, of love, happiness, and music, is something that is worth sacrificing their sterile lives for. Heroically, by leaving, Jonas also sacrifices all of his memories to his Community, as will the Giver when he is released. Perhaps, at this moment back in the Community, the Sameness has finally been broken, and the music Jonas hears behind him is symbolically coming from the changing Community itself.

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The Snow-covered Hill Symbol Timeline in The Giver

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Snow-covered Hill appears in The Giver. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
...Receiver places his hands on Jonas's back and transmits the memory of sledding down a hill: Jonas does not just remember the activity, he feels the cold air and the snowflakes... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
That night Jonas dreams he is at the top of a snow-covered hill, needing to reach whatever is waiting at the bottom. The next morning, during dream-telling, he... (full context)
Chapter 23
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
When he reaches the top of the hill, Jonas recognizes it. He also sees a sled. Jonas and Gabriel ride the sled downhill.... (full context)