In the novel ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry, the main protagonist is faced with an important decision when he learns of the true meaning of ‘Release’. He (Jonas) lives in a ‘Community’ where a decision had previously been made to create a ‘utopian’ (perfect) society by eliminating all things that were considered potentially dangerous. In doing so, the Elders removed the collective memory of the inhabitants of the Community, thus removing freedom of choice. They thought that by making all the important choices for the people themselves, no one would ever be hurt. Their plan worked to some extent; however without memory of the past, the inhabitants of the Community were unable to see colours, hear music and experience true feelings. Jonas, and his mentor (The Giver) are the only ones with access to memories of the time before ‘Sameness’ was introduced. After learning that the elderly and young newborns who do not conform to the society’s standards are not ‘Released’ into ‘Elsewhere’ but are in reality injected with a lethal dose of chemicals, Jonas decides to sacrifice his own safety in order to return the memories he has to their rightful owners.
This decision had a major impact on a young boy named Gabriel (who has the same capacity to receive memories as Jonas and the Giver) whose life is saved. Gabriel had been one of the few children who did not live up to the Community’s ‘expectations’ – he is underweight. Gabriel is then scheduled to be Released. Luckily, his life is spared when Jonas escapes from the Community – taking Gabriel with him. In the novel, the Newchild Gabriel is a symbol of hope and starting over. Should Gabriel have been killed, it would represent the death of hope for the Community. However, when Jonas takes Gabriel away with him, his gesture is symbolic of his determination to change things, and his struggles to maintain his ideals in the face of difficulty. Jonas’ decision also had an significant effect on the lives of the inhabitants of the Community.
Although not portrayed in the novel, we can assume that with the return of their memories the people would be able to lead much ‘fuller’ lives with more meaning. They would no longer be stuck in a ‘grey’ world – devoid of colour, music and emotion – but be able to make their own choices, and learn from their own mistakes. In effect, with the sacrifice of his own security, Jonas gives back to his people their individuality and personal dreams.
In particular, Jonas’ decision would have greatly impacted one character – his friend and mentor, the Giver. “I loved her, [referring to Rosemary, the Giver’s daughter]” the Giver says, “Just as I love you.” The Giver considers Jonas like family – his son. Emotionally, Jonas’ departure would cause the Giver enormous sorrow.
Also, with the return of their memories, the inhabitants of the Community would at first be extremely scared and perhaps angry. In their confusion, it would be the Giver that they turn to – the one they know will have the answers. The Giver must deal with all these people before he himself can fully appreciate the joy of being able to share the memories with others.
In conclusion, the decision Jonas makes to bring colours and feeling back to his Community has great effect on the Newchild Gabriel, his mentor, the Giver and all the inhabitants of the Community. His own sacrifice adds significance to Jonas’ choice to escape the Community, and flee to the Elsewhere.