The Giver starts off as the ordinary story of an eleven-year-old boy named Jonas. When we meet the protagonist, he is apprehensive about the Ceremony of Twelve, at which he will be assigned his job. Although he has no clue as to what job he might be assigned, he is astonished when he is selected to be the Receiver of Memory. He learns that it is a job of the highest honor, one that requires him to bear physical pain of a magnitude beyond anyone’s experience.
As the story progresses, we realise that the society in it is not as ordinary as it seems. Among the inklings that we get that something is unusual is when the author describes elephants as “imaginary creatures”. Later we learn that this “community” is governed by a Committee of Elders, the most important of whom is the Receiver of Memory. Be it people’s jobs or spouses or children, this Committee exercises authority over everything. Pain, war, hatred and deceit do not exist. Everyone is extremely polite and honest. It appears to be an utopia.
However, as Jason’s training teaches him, this is not the case. His teacher, the Receiver of Memory, who tells Jonas to call him the Giver, transmits memories of the distant past to him. It is through these memories that Jonas discovers the meaning of snow, war, pain and love. The Giver tells him that these things existed before the people chose to go to “Sameness”. Ever since, they gave up those things in exchange for a world free of discrimination, crime and pain. However, realising the importance of wisdom gained through experience, they chose the Receiver to bear the burden of all the memories for them. Overwhelmed by all this information and being forbidden to share it with anyone, Jonas grows increasingly embittered against his community. He resents being singled out to carry the load of centuries of sorrow by himself. He yearns to live the exciting life of his memories and is frustrated at everyone else for being satisfied with their bland, monotonous lives.
Meanwhile, Jonas’ father, a Nurturer, has brought home a baby, Gabriel, who has had trouble sleeping in the Nurturing Center. Jonas volunteers to have Gabe sleep in his room. While patting Gabe’s back, Jonas unintentionally transfers a memory to him. Gradually, Jonas develops an attachment to Gabriel, one that mimics the familial attachments he has experienced in his memories. He forges a similar bond with the Giver.
Subsequently, Jonas discovers that release, the ultimate fate of old people, problematic children and disobedient citizens, is synonymous with death. Jonas is shocked to see his own father kill an innocent baby. Disgusted by his hypocrisy, Jonas refuses to go home. That night, the Giver and Jonas devise a plan to change the community forever. According to the plan, Jonas will escape and the Giver will remain to help the community deal with the memories that will return from Jonas. However, Jonas is forced to change this plan and set out with Gabriel when he finds...