The Giver

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Feeling and Emotion Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Freedom and Choice Theme Icon
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Giver, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Feeling and Emotion Theme Icon

The people of Jonas's community don't understand genuine emotion or pain, because their lifestyles allow no opportunity to experience it. Birthmothers are not allowed to raise their own children. Sex is forbidden and sexual urges medicated away. Adults are not allowed to choose their own spouses. Identical twins are not both allowed to survive because they would be too close emotionally. Every decision made in the community serves a purely practical purpose and is based on the rules set down at the time of the community's establishment, promoting Sameness and leaving no room for sentimentality.

Jonas is unique in that he longs for human closeness even before he meets The Giver. When he bathes Larissa at the House of the Old, he realizes the beauty of touch and intimacy. When he begins his training as Receiver, he realizes that true emotion is only accessible to those who have memory and experience. He also realizes that one can only experience joy and love if one understands pain and loneliness. As he experiences the breadth and beauty of human emotion, Jonas comes to believe that it is cruel to allow people to continue living in numbness. His ultimate escape from the community is an act of love toward those who do not know how to love him in return. By leaving, Jonas is able to give them feeling.

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Feeling and Emotion ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Feeling and Emotion appears in each chapter of The Giver. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Feeling and Emotion Quotes in The Giver

Below you will find the important quotes in The Giver related to the theme of Feeling and Emotion.
Chapter 4 Quotes
He just bowed to all of us and then walked, like they all do, through the special door in the Releasing Room. But you should have seen his look. Pure happiness, I'd call it.
Related Characters: Larissa (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Jonas goes to his regular volunteer hours at the House of Old, where he helps bathe an old woman named Larissa. She tells him about the events of her day, in which she and the rest of the House celebrated the release of a man named Roberto. 

In this quote, Larissa recalls the joy that Roberto seemed to exude when he was led away for release. "Release" is a nebulous word for systematic removal from the Community to "Elsewhere." The word is frequently used by the book's characters, most of whom seem to be ignorant to the fact that it is really Community-imposed killing of those deemed unfit for society. The look of joy on Roberto's face likely comes from the fact that he does not know he is being led away to die—perhaps he is happy because he has been celebrated for his individuality, likely for only the second time in his life (the first comes during the Assignment of Twelves, when children received jobs tailored to their abilities and personalities). As the Sameness removes all differences and even birthdays, people are rarely celebrated for their unique lives--that is, until they are about to be "released" to make room for a new, more productive member of society (a newchild is soon named Roberto). This celebration of life right before death makes Community members actually excited for their own release dates, and reduces any discomfort surrounding the notion of being led "Elsewhere" or inquiry into what this morbid practice might be. Release therefore functions as both a form of population and social control. 


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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
[Jonas] watched them hack the tusks from a motionless elephant on the ground and then haul them away, spattered with blood. He felt himself overwhelmed with a new perception of the color he knew as red.
Related Characters: Jonas
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

While many of the memories that the Giver bequeaths to Jonas are pleasurable, such as ones of sailing and sledding, many of them bring pain and suffering. During one training session, the Giver gives Jonas the memory of an elephant being killed by poachers for the ivory of its tusks. Though Jonas has thus far associated colors with pleasurable memories, seeing the blood of the elephant gives him the sinking realization that colors can represent just as much pain as they do pleasure. 

In the Community, a total lack of colors and differentiation maintains the peace and ensures that no one is uncomfortable or discontent with their circumstances. But the consequence of such a stable existence is a total lack of strong emotions: despair and passion are things that only the Giver and Jonas can understand through memories of war and of love. Without understanding what true pain is, one cannot under what true happiness is, and vice versa. A total lack of comparison to anything beyond what they currently experience results in a very tepid existence for every member of the Community, from birth to release. While it is true that the rules of the Community reduce senseless suffering (like that which Jonas here witnesses), they also completely deprive people of the joyous emotions that can balance out, or even help overcome, the pain of life. Jonas and the Giver alone understand what they are missing out on in life in the Community, and it is literally their job to bear the burden of humanity's collective memories in order to preserve perfect order in their rigid society. 

They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.
Related Characters: Jonas
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

Jonas asks the Giver about what the Chief Elder said when she assigned him the role of Receiver: that ten years ago, another Twelve had earned the position, which ended in disaster. The Giver consents to telling him the story of the previous Receiver who requested for release, resulting in all of her memories being free for the Community to access. The fallout was a disaster, and no Receiver had been chosen until Jonas, ten years later. 

Jonas realizes that his life has become much richer and more nuanced since he began to receive memories from the Giver. His ability to see colors makes life more exciting and vibrant, and his new understanding of pain and joy make him appreciate and understand what the people in his life, such as Asher, Fiona, and his parents mean to him. However, the story of the panic that ensued when the memories were released into the Community proves that the sudden influx of such powerful feelings and ideas was too much for citizens of the Community to handle, due to their previously sterile existence. Jonas badly wants to share these emotions and memories with the people he comes to realize that he "loves," an emotion he has never been taught to express before, but realizes that he has no power to share these feelings with Community members. They are completely satisfied with their current existences, he now understands, because they have no comprehension of what any other life could ever look or feel like. 

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 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. 

He was not aware of giving the memory; but suddenly he realized that it was becoming dimmer, that it was sliding through his hand into the being of the newchild.
Related Characters: Jonas
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Since Gabriel sleeps most soundly in Jonas's room at night, Jonas's father consents to letting the baby sleep there when he comes home with him at the end of each day. One night, while trying to calm the crying newchild, Jonas absentmindedly thinks of a happy memory the Giver gave him, and realizes that he feels it slip away as the child's cries die down. Jonas then realizes that, like himself, Gabe is a receiver, and that Jonas has just passed on his first memory. 

Jonas and Gabe both have light eyes, as does the Giver, whereas most members of the Community have dark eyes. This is one noticeable physical difference that separates them from the rest of society and suggests that they are more permeable to seeing "beyond" than the rest of the members of the Community. Jonas often feels very alone after his training sessions, since he cannot discuss the memories or the nature of his work with anyone other than the Giver. He finds kinship in Gabe, a baby who also looks different like he does, and who is also on the fringes of society, as he is in constant danger of being released. Though this new power to Give startles Jonas at first, it inspires within him a bond with Gabe that he does not feel with anyone other than the Giver. This shows that the memories, rather than only frightening members of the Community as they did when the previous Receiver passed away, have the power to heal and bring comfort and wisdom far beyond any rule or counsel can. 

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 17 Quotes
He felt such love for Asher and for Fiona. But they could not feel it back, without the memories.
Related Characters: Jonas, Asher, Fiona
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

Jonas gets into a fight with Asher and some of his friends when they begin to play a game that simulates war. Though he frequently played the game as a child, once he experienced the horrors of war and the senseless death it brings through the memories, he becomes angry about the carelessness with which his friends pretend to attack and kill one another. Fiona finds Jonas distraught, comforts him shortly, and leaves. In this quote, Jonas realizes that though he now understands that he loves his friends Asher and Fiona, they can never love him back.

Like his parents, Jonas knows that his friends' emotional shortcomings are not due to their personal faults, but the society that they have been raised and exist in. In order to preserve peace, strong emotions like fear and love have had to be erased from society. Jonas feels immeasurable sadness at the realization that he and the Giver are the only people in their Community who can truly feel love, and this understanding pushes him further into emotional isolation. Thanks to the pills, forced separation to avoid bonds between people and their biological relations, and the containment of the memories into the Giver and the Receiver, society has no collective understanding that there ever was such a thing as love or fear. The only way for people to understand what they lost with the Sameness, Jonas now knows, is to have them experience the memories for themselves. 

Chapter 19 Quotes
He killed it! My father killed it! Jonas said to himself.
Related Characters: Jonas (speaker), Jonas's Father
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

One day, Jonas asks the Giver about the true nature of release, and where people go when they are sent "Elsewhere." The Giver shows Jonas a video of the release that his Father performed earlier in the day on the smaller of a set of twins born (due to the fact that the Rules state there can only be 50 children in any age group in a given year, and that only one of each set of twins is allowed to remain in the Community). Jonas's father injects the newborn with a mysterious substance, and it almost instantly dies. Jonas is horrified to realize that to be released is to be killed. 

In watching this video, Jonas finally comes to understand that the "Elsewhere" that people go to after release is really death. His father, he now knows, killed a perfectly healthy newborn simply because of the Community's arbitrary rules about its number of citizens. In killing the child, his father did not seem upset or guilty about his actions, showing that he neither understood exactly what he was doing nor was it the first time he had performed such a senseless release. Though many of the Community's rules seem to have good intentions, the systematic killing of people deemed unfit for society marks it as a mostly dystopian, rather than idyllic, way of life. After seeing this video, Jonas understands further what is at stake with his acquisition of memories and rare understanding of love, pain, and what it means to be a human. 

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 22 Quotes
He wept because he was afraid now that he could not save Gabriel. He no longer cared about himself.
Related Characters: Jonas, Gabriel
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

As Gabe and Jonas travel on, their conditions worsen, and they do not reach another Community. Both boys become very weak, and in this quote, Jonas weeps not for his own life, but for Gabe's. Though this moment can be interpreted as very tragic, since the boys have no concept of how to fend for themselves in the wild, but Jonas knows they will be killed if they turn back, it can also be interpreted as a triumph: by caring for Gabe's life more than his own, Jonas is expressing true love for another human being, something he would not have likely felt had he stayed in the Community. He risked his own life to save Gabe's--had the baby not been there, Jonas might have had more food and energy to save himself, but the love he came to know and develop meant that he knew he had no choice to leave the child in the Community to be released. Thus, though Jonas knows there is little chance either of them will survive, he is more human than ever before, thanks to his escape from the Community. 

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.