The river forms a border of the community before continuing on to Elsewhere. As a border, the river comes to symbolize escape—crossing the river means leaving the community. Because it takes the life of the four-year-old Caleb, the river also symbolizes the danger inherent in that escape.
The River Quotes in The Giver
The The Giver quotes below all refer to the symbol of The River. 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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin edition of The Giver published in 2012.).
Chapter 17 Quotes
He saw the familiar wide river beside the path differently. He saw all of the light and color and history it contained and carried in its slow-moving water; and he knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere to which it was going.
The River Symbol Timeline in The Giver
The timeline below shows where the symbol The River appears in The Giver. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...a replacement child to a family whose Four, also named Caleb, had fallen into the river and drowned. Jonas remembers the Ceremony of Mourning for the drowned boy, in which everyone... (full context)
...get Sanitation, and tells Jonas that he once heard that someone in Sanitation swam the river and left to join another community. Jonas has never heard of someone joining another community,... (full context)