About the Book

Book Protagonist: Jonas
Publication Date: 1993
Genre: Dystopian, Teen and Young Adult


The Giver

By Lois Lowry

'The Giver' is filled with memorable lines that touch on a variety of themes, including unity, pain/isolation, as well as change, and choice.

In the novel, the protagonist is faced with an impossible task: to take on the collective memories of the past, that which the Community has unwittingly chosen to purge from its consciousness. The discovery of these memories, as well as the Sameness, sets Jonas on a painful path that eventually leads to Elsewhere.

The Giver Quotes

The Community

There’s nothing we can do. It’s always been this way. Before me, before you, before the ones who came before you. Back and back and back.

These lines come from Chapter 20 when Jonas expresses his frustration over the nature of the Community. From what Jonas has learned so far, he knows that things have been the way they are for quite a long time. Lowry, the author, uses repetition in this quote to emphasize his fear and desperation over this fact. The Giver suggested that there might be a way for them to return everyone’s memories. Jonas doesn’t see any hope in this possibility and parrots back to the giver the phrase “back and back and back.” The Giver used these same words earlier in the novel when he spoke about the role that Jonas was training to take on, that of the Receiver. 

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. 

This is the first sentence of The Giver. It alludes to the future that Janas is about to face and what will occur over the next year. He is about to find out his future profession, something that will have a much greater impact on him than it does on anyone else in his life. 

There were only two occasions of release which were not punishments. Release of the elderly, which was a time of celebration for a life well and fully lived; and the release of a newchild, which always brought a sense of what-could-we-have-done. This was especially troubling for the Nurturers, like Father, who felt they had failed somehow. But it happened rarely. 

These lines outline some of the ways that the young and old are set apart from the rest of the Community. Different rules apply to them, and they are treated differently than everyone else. As the novel develops and readers learn more about the Community, they may come to different opinions in regards to the moral or immoral nature of “releasing” the elderly and the young. The Community does not place any value in wisdom, seen through the murder of the old and the repression of memory. 

But the Receiver-in-Training … is to be alone, apart, while he is prepared by the current Receiver for the job which is the most honored in our community.

This section of the novel is found in Chapter 8. It details the different structures of the Receiver’s job compared to the rest of the Community. While everyone else continues to value and promote togetherness and sameness, Jonas has to be different. He has to, as he becomes the new Receiver of Memory, step away from his friends and family and isolate himself. 


He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo. 

These thoughtful lines are the concluding words of The Giver. They signal the changes that Jonas has gone through and the first time that he’s ever truly heard music. With these lines, Jonas has officially arrived in Elsewhere. Here, he can live his life however he wants to and experience what it means to be alive in a way that the Community doesn’t allow.

It was as simple as that. Once he had yearned for choice. Then, when he had had a choice, he had made the wrong one: the choice to leave. And now he was starving.

This quote comes from Chapter 22 of The Giver. These line outline the contrasting emotional reactions that Jonas has to his choices, or lack thereof. He notes how “once he had yearned for choice,” but now he’s having to face a truly enormous choice and worries about it. He is conflicted in regards to whether or not he should’ve left the Community, and the reader is left wondering if he’s always going to feel this way.

Isolation and Pain

So there will be a whole part of your life which you won’t be able to share with a family. It’s hard, Jonas. It was hard for me.

These lines are spoken by the Giver in regard to the isolation that his position has imposed on him. It’s something that Jonas is going to have to deal with as he steps into his role as the new Receiver. The Giver has to remain separate from the rest of the community, as Jonas will, due to the burden of his memories.

Some afternoons The Giver sent him away without training. Jonas knew, on days when he arrived to find The Giver hunched over, rocking his body slightly back and forth, his face pale, that he would be sent away. “Go,” The Giver would tell him tensely. “I’m in pain today. Come back tomorrow.”

These lines come from Chapter 13 and describe another element of the Giver’s life, the constant pain he’s in over the burden of his memories. He is holding onto the suffering in the world, something that only he understands. His knowledge is an immense burden to hold on to, something that manifests itself physically. 

You suggested, Jonas, that perhaps she wasn’t brave enough? I don’t know about bravery: what it is, what it means. I do know that I sat here numb with horror. Wretched with helplessness. And I listened as Rosemary told them that she would prefer to inject herself.

These lines are in reference to the Giver’s daughter, Rosemary. Jonas suggested that perhaps Rosemary chose to kill herself because she wasn’t “brave enough” to face the memories she was taking on. The Giver responds with his own experience of the events and his feeling that he didn’t do enough to comfort her and stop her. 

Then it was in his hand, and he looked at it carefully, but it was the same apple. Unchanged. The same size and shape: a perfect sphere. The same nondescript shade, about the same shade as his own tunic.

These lines come from Chapter 3 of The Giver. Jonas is taking note of the perfect, same nature of the apple. It doesn’t change. It remains the same “nondescript shade” as everything else. This relates to later sections of the novel once Jonas is able to see color and is a symbol of the sameness of the Community. 

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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