Memory, emotion, and experience are all factors in our lives that influence us to be ourselves. But what if nobody had those factors in their lives except one? In the dystopian novel, The Giver, Lois Lowry’s characterization of Jonas, shows us how he believes that a life without memory is a life without living. Jonas, the pale-eyed protagonist, is seen through the eyes of the community as an ordinary bland child given the honor of becoming the receiver; however, as Jonas experiences memories and the emotions they emit, he soon comes to disagree with the ways of the community.
To start, Jonas is unique and special in a way that separates him from everyone else. All children in Jonas’s community are genetically modified and educated to be as similar as possible, except for him, who has shown time and again how he appears to differentiate from everyone. For example, at the beginning of the story, it was unveiled that he, unlike most other citizens, has pale eyes: “…The pale eyes. Almost every citizen in the community had dark eyes. His parents did, and Lily did, and so did all of his group members and friends. But there were a few exceptions: Jonas himself, and a female Five who he had noticed had the different lighter eyes” (Lowry 20). And also Gabriel, Rosemary (The Giver’s daughter), and the Giver himself. This quantitatively proves that Jonas is special, and was not chosen to be the receiver randomly. In addition to that, the gift of pale eyes directly relates to his sudden flashes of change objects he sees from time to time: “But suddenly Jonas and noticed, following the path of the apple through the air with his eyes… the apple has changed” (Lowry 24). Just like the way the chief of the community described Jonas with the ability to see beyond.
Equally as important, Jonas is perfect for his duties as the receiver. The citizens of the community chose Jonas because he had traits that the elders did not see in anyone else. During the ceremony of the twelves, the chief elder said, “Jonas was identified as a possible Receiver many years ago. We have observed him meticulously…He has shown all of the qualities that a Receiver must have … intelligence … integrity … courage … wisdom … and the capacity to see beyond” (Lowry 62). This proves Jonas is a very special person, he has the ability, intelligence, and endurance to take in memories that come with heavy burden and pain. Nobody in the community except for Jonas and the giver has had any real memories, this indicates that they are the only two that have true emotions, individuality, unique personalities.
Furthermore, Jonas is very daring and lionhearted when it comes to the good of the community. As the story progresses with Jonas as the receiver, he obtains the full experiences of memories, the good ones, the bad ones, the emotions they emit, and the knowledge he gains from it. Despite the pain and horror from past traumas in history, he experiences feelings that have never been felt before: Happiness, joy, and love. It was that point when he saw the major flaws in his society. Everything was fake, his relationships, his family, and even his beliefs, it was life without memory. He truly believes that the life they were all living was pointless: “’Things could change, Gabe,’ Jonas went on. ‘Things could be different. I don’t know how but there must be some way for things to be different. There could be colors. And grandparents,’ he added, staring through the dimness toward the ceiling of his sleeping room. ‘And everybody would have the memories” (Lowry 128). After, he runs away with Gabe, releasing all his memories to the citizens as he searches for “elsewhere”. He sacrificed everything he had to the good of the community and with his power of memory, his last action was him emitting memories of happiness to Gabe and him as they slowly freezing in the icy tundra.
I think Jonas has a very strong connection with many other protagonists. For example, Harry Potter, he like Jonas grew up in a “normal” society in their eye, but gotten plunged into a new life. They are different from the rest as Harry has his scar and Jonas has his eyes. They excel in the true values of life and finally, their courage comes to test as they sacrifice themselves for the good of everyone else.
In the final analysis, Jonas wasn’t the ordinary obedient schoolboy everybody saw him as, but a courageous and wise hero that saved the community from the continuous void of sameness. Through memory and emotion, he created a life for everyone with memories… a life truly worth living. “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver