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When Jonas’s family unit finishes supper, each member of the unit shares their difficult emotions from the day. The routine brings the family together, and it also allows Jonas’s parents to monitor the development of their children, not to mention guiding them through difficult times. The family follows a similar routine each morning after breakfast. Instead of sharing their emotions, this time they share their dreams.

As always, young Lily insists on going first. She shares her dream in a long, drawn-out way that allows her to prolong how long she is the focus of attention. Jonas’s mother has had troubling dreams in which she worries that she has broken an obscure rule, which every member of the family agrees has likely resulted from the difficulties she has had punishing a repeat offender in her job at the Department of Justice. Jonas’s father has no dreams to share, nor does Gabe, the struggling infant Jonas’s father has brought home. Normally, dream sharing begins when one is a Three.

Jonas rarely dreams, but this morning he does have a dream to tell. As with his feelings of apprehension earlier, Jonas is once again confused about what is going on inside of him. His dream takes place in the House of the Old, where he volunteered to bathe the elderly the day before. In his dream, however, he was not bathing an elderly woman; instead, he was trying to convince his friend Fiona to take off her clothes so he could bathe her. When Jonas’s father asks about the strongest emotional experience of the dream, Jonas explains that it was the feeling of “wanting.” Even though he knew that what he was trying to convince Fiona to do was probably wrong, he wanted it to happen very badly.

After hearing the story of Jonas’s dream, Jonas’s father invites Lily to walk to school with him and Gabe. Meanwhile, Jonas and his mother stay behind to talk about his dream in more detail. Jonas’s mother explains that what Jonas is experiencing is the beginnings of the “Stirrings,” which happen to everyone. In fact, she and Jonas’s father have been waiting for him to share these feelings for a while. Jonas has heard of the Stirrings before, though he never really thought about what they might be.

In Jonas’s community, once people begin to experience the Stirrings, they are required to take a pill that will neutralize these feelings. Jonas’s parents have been taking these pills for decades, and every adult takes them until they enter the House of the Old. Now Jonas will take this pill to repress the Stirrings. As Jonas leaves for school, he reflects that this change is not so significant. On the other hand, he cannot help recalling that the Stirrings felt good.
Life in Jonas’s community is carefully structured and regulated. When change comes, it is often symbolic and illustrates an important lesson. As the sixth chapter of The Giver opens, Jonas’s mother is tying ribbons into Lily’s hair, which the young Seven dislikes. Lily craves to be independent and adult, and she is very pleased that today is the last day she has to wear ribbons. Jonas has also been looking forward to this day, the Ceremony of Twelve.

Unfortunately for Lily, she is still not old enough to be assigned a bicycle. Still, Jonas reminds her, every year brings changes. This year she receives her jacket with buttons on the front; until their seventh year, children wear jackets with buttons in the back so they can learn the value of interdependence. Meanwhile, the Tens have their hair cut short to signify that they are about to enter the world of adults and that they need to act with greater maturity.

Each year brings changes, and each part of the ceremony is significant, but the most popular part is the Naming, during which children are given to their family units. Jonas’s father is near the stage so he can help present the children to their new caretakers. Jonas’s father is especially happy because Gabriel has been given an extra year to develop. Gabe will stay with Jonas’s family for the following year for extra care, though each member of the family had to sign an agreement not to become attached to Gabriel. They must be prepared not to complain when Gabriel is given to his family unit the following year.

One naming is particularly moving. A family in Jonas’s community recently lost their child, a Four named Caleb. There was a ceremony of loss during which the entire community chanted Caleb’s name in decreasing volume. By the time their whispers became inaudible, the community had let go of Caleb. Now the community chants “Caleb” for this new child, but in increasing volume. Jonas reflects that “it was as if the first Caleb were returning.” Another child is named Roberto, and Jonas considers this child as the replacement of the man who was recently released at the House of the Old. Of course, there is no chanting for this new Roberto—Loss and Release are not the same.

The community breaks for lunch before the Twelves receive their assignments. Asher is nervous and tells stories of how past Twelves applied for “Elsewhere,” a choice that applicants can make if they do not feel like they fit in to the community. Jonas scoffs at these stories, but Asher insists that people have applied for Elsewhere before. It seems unlikely to Jonas that people would apply for Elsewhere because the Committee of Elders works so hard to make sure people are given proper assignments.
As the community members return to their seats in the Auditorium, the Ceremony of Twelve begins. Jonas and Asher have felt apprehensive about this moment for a long time, but as with all things, it is a carefully regulated ceremony with many specific traditions and expectations. The Chief Elder explains that childhood in their community is about learning to fit in and conform. During the Ceremony of Twelve, the community acknowledges differences by looking at what people should do to contribute to the community. Some people enjoy labor, some enjoy caring for others, and still others have an aptitude for science.

After this preamble, the Ceremony of Twelve begins. Each Twelve is called to the stage to receive his or her assignment, but they are not called by their names. Instead, they are called by their numbers, which reminds everyone that each child is born to a number. Jonas is 19 or, more specifically, 11-19. At the moment, he actually has a duplicate, a shy female who just this morning earned her new clothes that mark her as an Eleven.

The first Eleven from Jonas’s group is called and receives her assignment: Fish Hatchery Attendant. It is a job Jonas would not prefer, but the young woman seems pleased with her assignment. Another girl is assigned to be a Birthmother, which Jonas’s mother would not want for Lily because it lacks prestige. However, Jonas again reflects on the wisdom of the Committee of Elders’s choice. The young woman is strong and will bear children easily. The Committee of Elders makes good choices.

There is a slight change to the ceremony for Asher, during which the Chief Elder shares the process by which the Committee chose his assignment. The community smilingly recalls Asher’s youth, during which he struggled to acquire language, confusing “snack” for “smack.” The mistake resulted in several beatings with the discipline wand. However, Asher has since learned to speak with greater precision and has now been assigned to the Recreation unit.

After Asher’s assignment, the ceremony returns to its normal routines. Although there is time for light-hearted reminiscences, as with Asher, the ceremony is indisputably important because at the end of it, all of the Twelves will be adults. They may be untrained, but they are adults nevertheless. This is why the Chief of the Elders thanks each Twelve for their childhood. In spite of the solemnity of the occasion, the Chief of the Elders seems to make a mistake—one that greatly concerns Jonas. She skips him, calling 18 and then 20. Everyone notices the mistake, but no one comments. Jonas and his family are left feeling disgraced and embarrassed. They all wonder what Jonas has done wrong.

Finally, Jonas has the “Capacity to See Beyond.” Again, this is something that no member of the community aside from the Receiver can understand, though they can at least be aware of its existence. At first, Jonas denies this ability. However, as he looks out at the community in the Auditorium, he sees them change somehow. He again recalls the curious incident when he saw an apple mysteriously change while he was throwing it back and forth with Asher. It seems that he has this ability as well.

The community, confident in this selection, begins chanting Jonas’s name, though no one—especially Jonas—knows what exactly is about to happen to this unusual Twelve.

 
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