The Giver. Lois Lowry. Page 3. For all the children. To whom we entrust the future . Page 4. TABLE OF CONTENTS. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Page 5. The Giver Lois Lowry Houghton Mifflin Company Boston For all the children To whom we entrust the future The Giver It was almost December, and Jonas was. The Giver is a American young-adult dystopian novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a society which at first appears to be a utopian society but.
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Scholastic BookFiles: A Reading Guide to The Giver by Lois Lowry/Jeannette Sanderson. p. cm. Summary: Discusses the writing, characters, plot, and themes of. Lois Lowry - The Giver Maxwell Grant - The Shadow - - The Death Giver. Read more · The Giver (Saddleback Focus on Reading Study Guides). The Giver. By Lois Lowry. Chapter Chapter 1. It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas.
Jonas walked over to look. Now, seeing the newchild It was the first thing Jonas noticed as he looked at the and its expression, he was reminded that the light eyesnewchild peering up curiously from the basket.
The pale were not only a rarity but gave the one who had them aeyes. Depth, he decided; as if one were looking into the clear water of the river, down to the Almost every citizen in the community had dark eyes. He felt self-conscious, realizing that he, too,members and friends. But there were a few exceptions: had that look.
Jonas himself, and a female Five who he had noticed hadthe different, lighter eyes. No one mentioned such things; it He went to his desk, pretending not to be interested inwas not a rule, but was considered rude to call attention to the newchild. On the other side of the room, Mother andthings that were unsettling or different about individuals. Lily were bending over to watch as Father unwrapped itsLily, he decided, would have to learn that soon, or she blanket.
Then he picked up the newchild in his basket. Lily followed be- Father glanced at it. She peered at the unwrapped newchild, who waved his arms. You know the Ten who 21 lives around the corner? She does some of her volunteer voice that all the Speakers seemed to develop, sayinghours at the Birthing Center.
He turned toward Lily and noticed to his satisfaction that her ribbons were, as usual, undone and dangling. After that they are Laborers for the rest of felt certain, and it would be directed mainly at Lily, thoughtheir adult lives, until the day that they enter the House of her name, of course, would not be mentioned.
Everyonethe Old. Is that what you want, Lily? Three lazy years, and would know. NoAssignment as Nurturer. He had, of course, disposed of thegested. She knelt beside the bas- next morning, before school. Then she giggled. Jonas thought again about that incident. Not by the announcement or the neces-better be quiet. He probablySome chance of that, he thought.
Lily was never quiet. But he had not been able to sort out andmaking announcements. He laughed silently to him-self, put words to the source of his confusion, so he had let itpicturing his sister droning on in the self-important pass. Jonas had casually picked 23 up an apple from the basket where the snacks were kept, my hand onto the ground! Asher had thrown it back, again. So Jonas laughed too, and with his laughter tried to ig- There had been nothing special about it; it was an activ- nore his uneasy conviction that something had happened.
It was effortless for Jonas, and even boring, area rules. That evening, before his parents and Lily arrivedthough Asher enjoyed it, and playing catch was a required at the dwelling, he had held it in his hands and looked at itactivity for Asher because it would improve his hand-eye carefully. It was slightly bruised now, because Asher hadcoordination, which was not up to standards.
But there was nothing at all unusual about the apple. But suddenly Jonas had noticed, following the path ofthe apple through the air with his eyes, that the piece of He had held a magnifying glass to it. Just for an around and around on his desktop, waiting for the thing toinstant. It had changed in mid-air, he remembered. Then it happen again. The only thing that happened was thesphere. The same nondescript shade, about the same shade announcement later that evening over the speaker, the an-as his own tunic.
He had tossed it back and forth between his hands afew times, then thrown it again to Asher. And again — in Now, sitting at his desk, staring at his schoolwork as histhe air, for an instant only — it had changed. He forced him- It had happened four times. Jonas had blinked, looked self to arrange his papers and try to study a little before thearound, and then tested his eyesight, squinting at the small evening meal.
The newchild, Gabriel, stirred and whim-print on the identification badge attached to his tunic. He pered, and Father spoke softly to Lily, explaining the feed-read his name quite clearly. He could also clearly see Asher ing procedure as he opened the container that held theat the other end of the throwing area.
And he had had no formula and equipment. The evening proceeded as all evenings did in the family Jonas had been completely mystified. About the apple? Asher frequently fooled around and made serious work alittle difficult. There was never anythe day were so carefully regulated. It was a minor rule, rather like rudeness,would do shortly, and had been faced with that freedom of punishable only by gentle chastisement.
But still. Better tochoice. The Eights always set out on their first volunteer steer clear of an occasion governed by a rule which wouldhour a little nervously, giggling and staying in groups of be so easy to break. They almost invariably did their hours on Recre-ation Duty first, helping with the younger ones in a place The area of dwellings behind him, Jonas rode past thewhere they still felt comfortable. He rode through the Central Plaza and the large Auditorium where public A male Eleven named Benjamin had done his entire meetings were held.
It was rumored that he Jonas slowed and looked at the nametags on the bicycleswas as skilled now as the Rehabilitation Directors lined up outside the Nurturing Center.
Then he checked those outside Food Distribution; it was always fun to help 26 with the deliveries, and he hoped he would find his friend there so that they could go together on the daily rounds, carrying the cartons of supplies into the dwellings of the community.
Jonas liked Fiona. She was a and distribution where the daily work of the communitygood student, quiet and polite, but she had a sense of fun as occurred.
He parked his bicycle neatly in the port beside Jonas was glad that he had, over the years, chosen to dotheirs and entered the building. She one area meant he was left with not the slightest idea —handed him the sign-up sheet and stamped her own official not even a guess — of what his Assignment would be. All of his volunteer hours wouldbe carefully tabulated at the Hall of Open Records. Once, He laughed softly. Thinking about the Ceremony again,long ago, it was whispered among the children, an Eleven Jonas?
He teased himself. But he suspected that with thehad arrived at the Ceremony of Twelve only to hear a public date so near, probably all of his friends were, too. He had been permitted an additional Old in the hall. The woman beside him, whoseAssignment privately, with no applause, no celebration: a arm he held, was hunched over as she shuffled along in herdisgrace that had clouded his entire future.
She looked toward Jonas and smiled, but her dark eyes were clouded and blank. He removed his tunic, hung itAsher and Fiona are helping in the bathing room. Jonas saw Fiona nearby, at a differ-hallway. He glanced into the rooms on either side.
The Old ent tub. She looked up and smiled at him, but she was busy,were sitting quietly, some visiting and talking with one gently washing a man who lay in the warm water. A fewwere asleep. Each room was comfortably furnished, the Jonas greeted them and the caretaking attendants atfloors covered with thick carpeting. It was a serene and work nearby. Then he went to the row of padded lounging chairs where others of the Old were waiting. He had 28 worked here before; he knew what to do.
She helped himwatched as the warm water flowed in through the many into his robe. The tub would be filled in aminute and the water flow would stop automatically. He was surprisedremoved her robe, and steadied her with his hand on her when she spoke, her eyes still closed. Jonas squeezed cleansing lotion onto the clean ing the last time I was here, just a few weeks ago.
He was asponge at the edge of the tub and began to wash her frail very interesting man. Larissa opened her eyes happily. Did you know Edna? It was against the rules for Jonas shook his head. Jonas wasglad.
But Edna. My goodness. He liked the feeling She was a Birthmother, and then she worked in Foodof safety here in this warm and quiet room; he liked the Production for years, until she came here. Larissa lifted her head and looked around to make sure From the corner of his eye he could see his friend Fiona no one else was listening.
He rinsed her left arm, laid it back into the water, and began to wash her feet. She murmured 31 with pleasure as he massaged her feet with the sponge. Jonas grinned. Not enough room, I guess. They should en-after a moment. MaybePlanning Committee. He squeezed the sponge against her back and began to rubher sharp-boned shoulders. That is alwaysfirst. Then the toast. We all raised our glasses and cheered.
We chanted the anthem. He made a lovely good-byespeech. And several of us made little speeches wishing himwell. You should have seen the look on hisface when they let him go. Where exactly did Roberto go? He just bowed to all of us and then walked, likethey all do, through the special door in the ReleasingRoom. But you should have seen his look. He rarely taken back to the Nurturing Center for the day. Sometimes he awoke with a feeling of fragments They all laughed.
Dream-telling began with Threes. They always asked, though theyritual. He shifted in But this morning was different. He had dreamed very his chair, frowning. There was a tub, in the dream. But only one. And the real bathing They all listened carefully and discussed with Lily the room has rows and rows of them. But the room in thewarning that the dream had given. And Fiona was there,dard phrase automatically, and tried to pay better attention the way she was yesterday.
Together they agreed that it probably alone in the room, standing beside the tub. She was laugh-resulted from her feelings when she had reluctantly dealt ing. Jonas looked at his plate. He waved toof water. He watched while Mother tidied the remains of He paused. He knew he had to tell it all, that it was not the morning meal and placed the tray by the front door foronly all right but necessary to tell all of a dream.
So he the Collection Crew. Finally she sat down beside him at the table. To make this thing easier for him, the Elders allow him to lie and even ask whatever he wants whoever he wants.
You see, Jonas goes way beyond becoming a Grandmaster of Memory , receiving all the memories of humanity. And these include some which precede the existence of the dystopian community he currently lives in.
Yes, some of them are difficult to be endured pain, war, etc. Like the first among them: Just think about it: Now, through the memories, he had seen oceans and mountain lakes and streams that gurgled through woods; and now he saw the familiar wide river beside the path differently.
He saw all of the light and color and history it contained and carried in its slow-moving water; and he knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere to which it was going. These memories come with the tragic realization that the others will never have the chance of even knowing about them!
And they are basically starving. Jonas tries to transmit some memories of beautiful things to Gabriel hoping that they will keep them alive. And they do — until they reach one hill. It looks familiar to Jonas. His parents both took them each morning. And some of his friends did, he knew. Always better, less rude, to talk about things that were the same.
Now he swallowed the small pill that his mother handed him. If you forget, the Stirrings will come back. The dreams of Stirrings will come back.
Sometimes the dosage must be adjusted. His mother nodded, unsurprised. The males, at least. And they all will, soon. Females too. But it becomes routine; after a while you won't even pay much attention to it. Hurry along.
For a moment, though, he remembered the dream again. The dream had felt pleasurable. Though the feelings were confused, he thought that he had liked the feelings that his mother had called Stirrings. He remembered that upon waking, he had wanted to feel the Stirrings again. Then, in the same way that his own dwelling slipped away behind him as he rounded a corner on his bicycle, the dream slipped away from his thoughts.
Very briefly, a little guiltily, he tried to grasp it back. But the feelings had disappeared. The Stirrings were gone. Lily, standing in front of her, fidgeted impatiently. Today, at least, we want them to be neatly tied and to stay neatly tied. I'm glad I only have to wear them one more year," Lily said irritably.
And re- member last year, when you became a Seven, you were so happy to get your front-buttoned jacket?
Fours, Fives, and Sixes all wore jackets that fas- tened down the back so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence. The front-buttoned jacket was the first sign of inde- pendence, the first very visible symbol of growing up. The bicycle, at Nine, would be the powerful emblem of moving gradually out into the community, away from the pro- tective family unit.
Lily grinned and wriggled away from her mother. And that you take me flying! If I get Pilot I'll put in an appeal. She gave Lily's ribbons a final tug. Are you ready? Did you take your pill? I want to get a good seat in the Auditorium. It was a short ride to the Auditorium, Lily waving to her friends from her seat on the back of Mother's bicycle. Jonas stowed his bicycle beside Mother's and made his way through the throng to find his group.
The entire community attended the Ceremony each year. For the parents, it meant two days holiday from work; they sat together in the huge hall. Children sat with their groups until they went, one by one, to the stage. Father, though, would not join Mother in the audience right away. For the earliest ceremony, the Naming, the Nurturers brought the newchildren to the stage. Jonas, from his place in the balcony with the Elevens, searched the Auditorium for a glimpse of Father.
It wasn't at all 41 40 hard to spot the Nurturers' section at the front; coming from it were the wails and howls of the newchildren who sat squirming on the Nurturers' laps. At every other public ceremony, the audience was silent and attentive. But once a year, they all smiled indulgently at the commotion from the little ones waiting to receive their names and families.
Jonas finally caught his father's eye and waved. Father grinned and waved back, then held up the hand of the newchild on his lap, making it wave, too. It wasn't Gabriel. Gabe was back at the Nurturing Center today, being cared for by the night crew.
He had been given an unusual and special reprieve from the committee, and granted an additional year of nurturing before his Naming and Placement. Father had gone before the committee with a plea on behalf of Gabriel, who had not yet gained the weight appropriate to his days of life nor begun to sleep soundly enough at night to be placed with his family unit.
Normally such a newchild would be labeled Inadequate and released from the community. Instead, as a result of Father's plea, Gabriel had been labeled Uncertain and given the additional year. He would continue to be nurtured at the Center and would spend his nights with Jonas's family unit. Each family member, in- cluding Lily, had been required to sign a pledge that they would not become attached to this little temporary guest, and that they would relinquish him without protest or ap- peal when he was assigned to his own family unit at next year's Ceremony.
At least, Jonas thought, after Gabriel was placed next year, they would still see him often because he would be part of the community. If he were released, they would not see him again. Those who were released — even as newchildren — were sent Elsewhere and never returned to the community. Father had not had to release a single newchild this year, so Gabriel would have represented a real failure and sadness.
Even Jonas, though he didn't hover over the little one the way Lily and his father did, was glad that Gabe had not been released. The first Ceremony began right on time, and Jonas watched as one after another each newchild was given a name and handed by the Nurturers to its new family unit.
For some, it was a first child. But many came to the stage accompanied by another child beaming with pride to re- ceive a little brother or sister, the way Jonas had when he was about to be a Five. Asher poked Jonas's arm. It had only been last year. Asher's parents had waited quite a long time before applying for a second child. Maybe, Jonas suspected, they had been so exhausted by Asher's lively foolishness that they had needed a little time.
Two of their group, Fiona and another female named Thea, were missing temporarily, waiting with their parents to receive newchildren.
But it was rare that there was such an age gap between children in a family unit. When her family's ceremony was completed, Fiona took the seat that had been saved for her in the row ahead of Asher and Jonas. She turned and whispered to them, "He's cute. But I don't like his name very much. Fiona's new brother had been 42 43 named Bruno. It wasn't a great name, Jonas thought, like — well, like Gabriel, for example. But it was okay. The audience applause, which was enthusiastic at each Naming, rose in an exuberant swell when one parental pair, glowing with pride, took a male newchild and heard him named Caleb.
This new Caleb was a replacement child. The couple had lost their first Caleb, a cheerful little Four. Loss of a child was very, very rare. The community was extraordi- narily safe, each citizen watchful and protective of all chil- dren.
But somehow the first little Caleb had wandered away unnoticed, and had fallen into the river. The entire community had performed the Ceremony of Loss together, murmuring the name Caleb throughout an entire day, less and less frequently, softer in volume, as the long and somber day went on, so that the little Four seemed to fade away gradually from everyone's consciousness.
Now, at this special Naming, the community per-formed the brief Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony, repeating the name for the first time since the loss: It was as if the first Caleb were returning. Another newchild was given the name Roberto, and Jonas remembered that Roberto the Old had been released only last week. But there was no Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony for the new little Roberto. Release was not the same as Loss. He sat politely through the ceremonies of Two and Three and Four, increasingly bored as he was each year.
Then a break for midday meal — served outdoors — and back again to the seats, for the Fives, Sixes, Sevens, and fi- nally, last of the first day's ceremonies, the Eights. Jonas watched and cheered as Lily marched proudly to the stage, became an Eight and received the identifying jacket that she would wear this year, this one with smaller buttons and, for the first time, pockets, indicating that she was mature enough now to keep track of her own small belongings.
She stood solemnly listening to the speech of firm instructions on the responsibilities of Eight and doing volunteer hours for the first time. But Jonas could see that Lily, though she seemed attentive, was looking longingly at the row of gleaming bicycles, which would be presented tomorrow morning to the Nines.
Next year, Lily-billy, Jonas thought. It was an exhausting day, and even Gabriel, retrieved in his basket from the Nurturing Center, slept soundly that night. Finally it was the morning of the Ceremony of Twelve. Now Father sat beside Mother in the audience. Jonas could see them applauding dutifully as the Nines, one by one, wheeled their new bicycles, each with its gleaming nametag attached to the back, from the stage.
He knew that his parents cringed a little, as he did, when Fritz, who lived in the dwelling next door to theirs, received his bike and almost immediately bumped into the podium with it. Fritz was a very awkward child who had been summoned for chastisement again and again. His transgressions were small ones, always: But each such error reflected negatively on his parents' guidance and 44 45 infringed on the community's sense of order and success.
Jonas and his family had not been looking forward to Fritz's bicycle, which they realized would probably too often be dropped on the front walk instead of wheeled neatly into its port.
Finally the Nines were all resettled in their seats, each having wheeled a bicycle outside where it would be waiting for its owner at the end of the day.
Everyone always chuckled and made small jokes when the Nines rode home for the first time. Then the Tens. Jonas never found the Ceremony of Ten particularly interesting — only time-consuming, as each child's hair was snipped neatly into its distinguishing cut: Laborers moved quickly to the stage with brooms and swept away the mounds of discarded hair.
Jonas could see the parents of the new Tens stir and murmur, and he knew that this evening, in many dwellings, they would be snip- ping and straightening the hastily done haircuts, trimming them into a neater line. It seemed a short time ago that Jonas had un- dergone the Ceremony of Eleven, but he remembered that it was not one of the more interesting ones.
By Eleven, one was only waiting to be Twelve. It was simply a marking of time with no meaningful changes. There was new clothing: Break for midday meal. Jonas realized he was hungry.
He and his groupmates congregated by the tables in front of the Auditorium and took their packaged food. Yesterday there had been merriment at lunch, a lot of teasing and energy. But today the group stood anxiously, separate from the other children. Jonas watched the new Nines gravitate toward their waiting bicycles, each one admiring his or her nametag. He saw the Tens stroking their new shortened hair, the females shaking their heads to feel the unaccustomed lightness without the heavy braids they had worn so long.
He went out the next day, jumped into the river, swam across, and joined the next community he came to. Nobody ever saw him again. Ash," he said. He was eyeing the river where it was visible behind the Auditorium. I don't have it. I sink. It says so in the rules. If you don't fit in, you can apply for Elsewhere and be released.
My mother says that once, about ten years ago, someone applied and was gone the next day. She threatened to apply for Else- where. But it was true, what she said, that someone did that once. She said that it was really true. Here today and gone tomorrow. Never seen again. Not even a Ceremony of Release. It didn't worry him. How could some- one not fit in?
The community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made. Even the Matching of Spouses was given such weighty consideration that sometimes an adult who applied to re- ceive a spouse waited months or even years before a Match was approved and announced.
All of the factors — dispo- sition, energy level, intelligence, and interests — had to correspond and to interact perfectly. Jonas's mother, for example, had higher intelligence than his father; but his father had a calmer disposition. They balanced each other. Their Match, which like all Matches had been monitored by the Committee of Elders for three years before they could apply for children, had always been a successful one. Like the Matching of Spouses and the Naming and Placement of newchildren, the Assignments were scrupu- lously thought through by the Committee of Elders.
He was certain that his Assignment, whatever it was to be, and Asher's too, would be the right one for them. He only wished that the midday break would conclude, that the audience would reenter the Auditorium, and the suspense would end. As if in answer to his unspoken wish, the signal came and the crowd began to move toward the doors.
They were arranged by their original numbers, the numbers they had been given at birth. The numbers were rarely used after the Naming. But each child knew his number, of course. Sometimes parents used them in irrita- tion at a child's misbehavior, indicating that mischief made one unworthy of a name.
Jonas always chuckled when he heard a parent, exasperated, call sharply to a whining toddler, "That's enough, Twenty-three! He had been the nineteenth new- child born his year. It had meant that at his Naming, he had been already standing and bright-eyed, soon to walk and talk. It had given him a slight advantage the first year or two, a little more maturity than many of his group-mates who had been bom in the later months of that year.
But it evened out, as it always did, by Three. After Three, the children progressed at much the same level, though by their first number one could always tell who was a few months older than others in his group. Technically, Jonas's full number was Eleven-nineteen, since there were other Nineteens, of course, in each age group. And today, now that the new Elevens had been ad- vanced this morning, there were two Eleven-nineteens.
At the midday break he had exchanged smiles with the new one, a shy female named Harriet. But the duplication was only for these few hours. Very soon he would not be an Eleven but a Twelve, and age would no longer matter. He would be an adult, like his parents, though a new one and untrained still. Asher was Four, and sat now in the row ahead of Jonas. He would receive his Assignment fourth. Fiona, Eighteen, was on his left; on his other side sat Twenty, a male named Pierre whom Jonas didn't like much.
Pierre was very serious, not much fun, and a worrier and tattletale, too. The initial speech at the Ceremony of Twelve was made by the Chief Elder, the leader of the community who was elected every ten years. The speech was much the same each year: Then the Chief Elder moved ahead in her speech.
You Elevens have spent all your years till now learning to fit in, to standard- 50 51 ize your behavior, to curb any impulse that might set you apart from the group. They have deter- mined your futures. She mentioned that there was one who had singular skills at caretaking, another who loved newchildren, one with un- usual scientific aptitude, and a fourth for whom physical labor was an obvious pleasure. Jonas shifted in his seat, trying to recognize each reference as one of his group- mates.
The caretaking skills were no doubt those of Fiona, on his left; he remembered noticing the tenderness with which she had bathed the Old. Probably the one with sci- entific aptitude was Benjamin, the male who had devised new, important equipment for the Rehabilitation Center. He heard nothing that he recognized as himself, Jonas.
Finally the Chief Elder paid tribute to the hard work of her committee, which had performed the observations so meticulously all year. The Committee of Elders stood and was acknowledged by applause. Jonas noticed Asher yawn slightly, covering his mouth politely with his hand.
Then, at last, the Chief Elder called number One to the stage, and the Assignments began. Each announcement was lengthy, accompanied by a speech directed at the new Twelve. Jonas tried to pay at- tention as One, smiling happily, received her Assignment as Fish Hatchery Attendant along with words of praise for her childhood spent doing many volunteer hours there, and her obvious interest in the important process of providing nourishment for the community.
Number One — her name was Madeline — returned, finally, amidst applause, to her seat, wearing the new badge that designated her Fish Hatchery Attendant. Jonas was certainly glad that that Assignment was taken; he wouldn't have wanted it.
But he gave Madeline a smile of congratulation. When Two, a female named Inger, received her Assign- ment as Birthmother, Jonas remembered that his mother had called it a job without honor. But he thought that the Committee had chosen well. Inger was a nice girl though somewhat lazy, and her body was strong. She would enjoy the three years of being pampered that would follow her brief training; she would give birth easily and well; and the task of Laborer that would follow would use her strength, keep her healthy, and impose self-discipline.
Inger was smiling when she resumed her seat. Birthmother was an important job, if lacking in prestige. Jonas noticed that Asher looked nervous. He kept turn- ing his head and glancing back at Jonas until the group leader had to give him a silent chastisement, a motion to sit still and face forward. Three, Isaac, was given an Assignment as Instructor of Sixes, which obviously pleased him and was well deserved. Now there were three Assignments gone, none of them ones that Jonas would have liked — not that he could have been a Birthmother, anyway, he realized with amusement.
He tried to sort through the list in his mind, the possible Assignments that remained. But there were so many he gave it up; and anyway, now it was Asher's turn. He paid strict attention as his friend went to the stage and stood self-consciously beside the Chief Elder.
Asher grinned and scratched one leg with the other foot. The audience chuckled softly. Some that would clearly, not have been right for Asher. Asher laughed, too, looking sheepish but pleased at the special attention.
The Instructors of Threes were in charge of the acquisition of correct language. At the meeting where Asher was discussed, we retold many of the stories that we all re- membered from his days of language acquisition. Remember, Asher?
Jonas did, too. He remembered, though he had been only a Three at the time himself. The punishment used for small children was a regulated system of smacks with the discipline wand: The Childcare specialists were trained very carefully in the dis- cipline methods: Poor Asher, who always talked too fast and mixed up words, even as a toddler.
As a Three, eager for his juice and crackers at snacktime, he one day said "smack" in-stead of "snack" as he stood waiting in line for the morning treat.
Jonas remembered it clearly. He could still see little Asher, wiggling with impatience in the line. He remembered the cheerful voice call out, "I want my smack! And precision of language was one of the most important tasks of small children. Asher had asked for a smack. The discipline wand, in the hand of the Childcare worker, whistled as it came down across Asher's hands. Asher whimpered, cringed, and corrected himself instantly. But the next morning he had done it again. And again the following week.
He couldn't seem to stop, though for each lapse the discipline wand came again, escalating to a series of painful lashes that left marks on Asher's legs. Eventually, for a period of time, Asher stopped talking altogether, when he was a Three. But he learned. And now his lapses are very few. His corrections and apologies are very prompt.
And his good humor is unfailing. Asher's cheerful disposition was well-known throughout the community. Then he turned and left the stage as the audience cheered. When he had taken his seat again, the Chief Elder looked down at him and said the words that she had said now four times, and would say to each new Twelve. Somehow she gave it special meaning for each of them. But he was more and more appre- hensive as his own approached. Now the new Twelves in the row ahead had all received their badges.
They were fingering them as they sat, and Jonas knew that each one was thinking about the training that lay ahead. For some — one studious male had been selected as Doctor, a female as Engineer, and another for Law and Justice — it would be years of hard work and study. Others, like Laborers and Birthmothers, would have a much shorter training period.
Eighteen, Fiona, on his left, was called. Jonas knew she must be nervous, but Fiona was a calm female. She had been sitting quietly, serenely, throughout the Ceremony. Even the applause, though enthusiastic, seemed serene when Fiona was given the important Assignment of Care- taker of the Old. It was perfect for such a sensitive, gentle girl, and her smile was satisfied and pleased when she took her seat beside him again. Jonas prepared himself to walk to the stage when the applause ended and the Chief Elder picked up the next folder and looked down to the group to call forward the next new Twelve.
He was calm now that his turn had come. He took a deep breath and smoothed his hair with his hand. Had he heard wrong? There was a sudden hush in the crowd, and he knew that the entire community realized that the Chief Elder had moved from Eighteen to Twenty, leaving a gap.
On his right, Pierre, with a startled look, rose from his seat and moved to the stage. A mistake. She made a mistake. But Jonas knew, even as he had the thought, that she hadn't. The Chief Elder made no mistakes.
Not at the Ceremony of Twelve. He felt dizzy, and couldn't focus his attention. He didn't hear what Assignment Pierre received, and was only dimly aware of the applause as the boy returned, wearing his new badge.
The numbers continued in order. Jonas sat, dazed, as they moved into the Thirties and then the Forties, nearing the end. Each time, at each announcement, his heart jumped for a moment, and he thought wild thoughts. Perhaps now she would call his name. Could he have forgotten his own number? He had always been Nineteen. He was sitting in the seat marked Nineteen. But she had skipped him. He saw the others in his group glance at him, embarrassed, and then avert their eyes quickly. He saw a worried look on the face of his group leader.
He wanted to disappear, to fade away, not to exist. He didn't dare to turn and find his parents in the crowd. He couldn't bear to see their faces darkened with shame. Jonas bowed his head and searched through his mind. What had he done wrong? They applauded at the final Assignment; but the applause was piecemeal, no longer a crescendo of united enthusiasm.
There were mur- murs of confusion. Jonas moved his hands together, clapping, but it was an automatic, meaningless gesture that he wasn't even aware of. His mind had shut out all of the earlier emotions: Now he felt only humiliation and terror. The Chief Elder waited until the uneasy applause sub- sided. Then she spoke again. That you feel I have made a mis- take.
The community, relieved from its discom- fort very slightly by her benign statement, seemed to breathe more easily. It was very silent. Jonas looked up. I caused you anguish. All of that was forgotten now. He simply willed himself to stand, to move his feet that felt weighted and clumsy, to go forward, up the steps and across the platform until he stood at her side.
Reassuringly she placed her arm across his tense shoulders. Then she went on. What did that mean? He felt a collective, questioning stir from the audience. They, too, were puzzled. In a firm, commanding voice she announced, "Jonas has been selected to be our next Receiver of Memory.
He saw their faces; the eyes widened in awe. And still he did not understand. It is he who trains his successor. Jonas followed her eyes and saw that she was looking at one of the Elders. The Committee of Elders was sitting together in a group; and the Chief Elder's eyes were now on one who sat in the midst but seemed oddly separate from them. It was a man Jonas had never noticed before, a bearded man with pale eyes.
He was watching Jonas intently. I will not dwell on the experience because it causes us all terrible discomfort. They shifted uneasily in their seats. Sometimes we worry that the one assigned might not develop, through training, every attribute necessary. Elevens are still children, after all.
What we observe as playfulness and patience — the requirements to become Nurturer — could, with maturity, be revealed as simply foolishness and indolence. So we continue to observe during training, and to modify behavior when necessary. That is stated quite clearly in the rules. He is to be alone, apart, while he is prepared by the cur-rent Receiver for the job which is the most honored in our community. Jonas listened with increasing unease.
It must be a unanimous choice of the Committee. They can have no doubts, however fleeting. If, during the process, an Elder reports a dream of uncertainty, that dream has the power to set a candidate aside instantly. We have observed him meticulously. There were no dreams of uncertainty. We hoped, also, that he would present himself promptly for chastisement, and he has always done so. He, of course, is the most important member of the Committee: It was he who reminded us, again and again, of the courage required.
Physical pain. Yes, you have scraped your knees in falls from your bicycle. Yes, you crushed your finger in a door last year. The Receiver himself was not able to describe it, only to remind us that you would be faced with it, that you would need immense courage.
We cannot prepare you for that. He did not feel brave at all. Not now. Jonas has not yet acquired that. The acquisition of wisdom will come through his training. That is what we looked for. I do not understand it. You members of the community will not understand it, either.
Perhaps Jonas will, because the current Receiver has told us that Jonas already has this quality. He calls it the Capacity to See Beyond. The audience watched him, too. They were silent.
For a moment he froze, consumed with despair. He didn't have it, the whatever-she-had-said. He didn't know what it was. Now was the moment when he would have to confess, to say, "No, I don't.