The annual December ceremony, when the "birthdays" of all children are celebrated simultaneously, is a ritual full of rites of passage. As children grow older, these rites allow them more responsibility; at eight, for example, they are given pockets and stuffed animals are taken away. At Nine, children are given bicycles. At Twelve, children are assigned jobs and adult status is conferred upon them. After Twelve, age is not counted. Yet these rites of passage are purely external, involving the giving of objects or responsibilities. Rites of passage that involve internal development are stifled. For instance, children do not become adults when they become aware of their own sexuality. Instead, they're given a pill to stifle sexual desires. Adulthood is forced upon them at a predetermined time and is associated with the ability to work instead of with the physical, mental, and emotional changes of puberty or life experience.
The Giver is in many ways Jonas's coming-of-age story. Jonas reaches maturity only when he is given memory, and through memory, experience. In this way, Jonas becomes more mature at Twelve than the "adults" of his community. But The Giver also teaches Jonas the wisdom to recognize his own shortcomings. Jonas truly becomes an adult at the end of the novel, when he learns that true maturity comes through selfless love, when one is willing to sacrifice one's own life for another's.