Some, like Jonas, Gabriel, The Giver, and Rosemary, are capable of feeling much more than others, like Jonas’s father and his friend Fiona. Their heightened perceptiveness sets them apart from the rest of the community.
Jonas is one of the most important characters in the novel. He’s an eleven-year-old and the protagonist. Jonas finds out towards the beginning of The Giver that he’s been chosen to be the new Receiver of Memory when he turns twelve. This means that he’s going to be bestowed with the memories of the time before the Community was created.
Jonas is a thoughtful child, deeply perceptive, and intelligent in ways that he doesn’t quite understand yet. He loves his family and friends but also longs for closer relationships. These are characteristics that he can maintain when he steps into his new role. Once his training for his new role as Receiver of Memory begins, his understanding of the world expands, and he’s confronted with a new means of perception. After Jonas starts to realize his world’s truth and the fact that his people gave up their freedoms for “Sameness,” he experiences a new kind of anger.
The Giver starts the novel as the current Receiver of Memory, which Jonas is chosen to fill. It is his job to train Jonas to take over. The Giver is a lonely man, separate from the rest of the Community due to his knowledge of what the world was like before the Sameness. He can’t share what he knows with other people, makings the burden even greater. The Giver has held the Community’s memories for a long time, and he’s filled with pain over their presence in his mind. He confesses to the belief that the memories should be shared with everyone.
The Giver lives in larger and nicer quarters than most people in the community, but he lives an inactive life. He grieves over the death of his daughter, Rosemary, and worries about the future. He eventually uses his pain and grief positively to plan Jonas’s escape. He gives Jonas his most precious memories, those of music and love. He is also willing to risk his own life to help everyone in the Community once their memories are returned.
Jonas’s Father fills the role of Nurturer. He works with infants, something that suits his kind, mild-mannered personality. He enjoys his job and works hard at it, willingly releasing, or killing, the children that the Community deems unfit to survive. He is a perfect example of how a dystopian society can seem completely normal if one is born into it. He plays games with the children he cares for, calls them by nicknames, and seems to want the best for them truly. Jonas’s father likes the way the Community functions and claims not to believe in love, despite evidence to the contrary.
Jonas’s Mother is another pleasant, mild-mannered character in the story. She works in a very different job from her husband, though, within the Department of Justice. There, she works to help redeem those who break the rules. She expresses worry several times in the novel about Jonas’s future. She’s intelligent and sympathetic.
Lily is Jonas’s sister, and she displays many of the characteristics of a normal, eight-year-old child. She became an Eight towards the beginning of the novel but is still over-talkative and unable to keep her mouth closed at important times. She’s also intelligent, like her mother.
Gabriel, also known as Gabe, is a young child, a “newchild,” who Jonas’s family cares for at night. He’s a perfect baby during the day but fusses at night. This is something that Jonas rectifies with some of his memories. He’s able to help the child relax. This relationship becomes quite important to Jonas. Once Jonas can see colors, he realizes that Gabriel’s eyes, his own, and the Giver’s are all blue. Once Jonas learns that Gabriel will be released, he is inspired to rebel against the Community.
Asher is Jonas’s best friend, who is assigned to the position of Assistant Director of Recreation. He’s high-energy and often speaks too fast. His personality is well-suited for the job he’s given.
Fiona is another of Jonas’s friends. She’s much more quiet and thoughtful than Asher is and is assigned to be a Caretaker of the Old at the Ceremony of the Twelve. She has red hair, something that only Jonas can see. Jonas finds her attractive and has an imitate dream about her. Fiona is incapable of feeling any strong emotion for Jonas.
An older woman living at the House of the Old, where Jonas goes to volunteer. She, like all the older men and women, is looking forward to her death or release. Jonas bathes her, and she expresses a fondness for gossip. At one point, she tells him about two people who were released recently.
The Chief Elder
The Chief Elder is the elected leader of the community. She’s affectionate with the children, remembering each of their names at the Ceremony.
An elderly man who was released from the community. His name is given to a newchild.
An awkward child who lives next to Jonas’s family. He often gets in trouble but takes part in the December Ceremony, where he receives a bicycle.
The Giver’s daughter who was selected before Jonas to become the next Receiver of Memory. She asked to be released or killed, after starting her training and learning the secrets that the Community keeps from everyone else.
Caleb is a young child who died at four-years-old when he fell into a river. At the December Ceremony, the child’s parents are given a new “Caleb” to replace the boy who died.