Jonas is an eleven-year-old that lives in a world without feelings, color, and choice. Citizens can also apply for spouses and children. When their children are grown, family units dissolve and adults live together with Childless Adults until they are too old to function in the society. Then they spend their last years being cared for in the House of the Old until they are finally “released” from the society. Jonas lives with his father, mother, and seven-year-old sister. Jonas will soon graduate from being an Eleven Soon he will be given his official assignment when he goes to the Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas is different from many people in the community. He has pale eyes, while most people have dark eyes, and he has a unique ability to see beyond. Jonas is the only person in his community who is able to see color.
At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is given the greatly honored assignment of Receiver of Memory. The Receiver is the keeper of the community’s collective memory. When the community got rid of color, feeling, and choice, it abandoned the memories of color, emotion, and pain. These memories go to the receiver so the community can avoid making the mistakes of the past. Jonas receives these memories of the past from the current receiver, a wise old man who tells Jonas to call him the Giver. As Jonas receives the memories from the Giver, he realizes how bland and empty his life in the community is.
Jonas’s father, a Nurturer of Children, brings home a newborn that isn’t growing as fast as he should and isn’t sleeping soundly. Jonas helps his family with the newchild, Gabriel, by giving him soothing memories to help him sleep. When Jonas finds out that Gabriel is in danger of being released, the Giver reveals to him that release means death. Jonas’s anger inspires the Giver to help Jonas create a plan to change the community forever. The Giver tells Jonas about his daughter, the designated receiver before Jonas, and how she asked to be released after the memories had been too much sadness for her. When she died, all the memories she had were released into the community. The Giver and Jonas plan for Jonas to escape the community and to enter Elsewhere. Once he has done that, his larger supply of memories will go into the community and the Giver will help the community to come to terms with the new feelings and thoughts, changing the society forever. However, Jonas is forced to leave earlier than planned when his father tells him that Gabriel will be released the next day. Desperate to save Gabriel, Jonas steals his father’s bicycle and a supply of food and sets off for Elsewhere. Gradually, he enters a landscape full of color, animals, and changing weather, but also hunger, danger, and exhaustion. Avoiding search planes, Jonas and Gabriel travel for a long time until heavy snow makes bike travel impossible. Half-frozen, but comforting Gabriel with memories of sunshine and friendship, Jonas mounts a high hill. Eventually, Jonas has traveled far enough where he has his very own memory. After a sled ride, Jonas hears people singing and thinks there are people waiting for him and Gabriel.
Jonas is an 11 year old boy that lives in a community without color, feelings, and pain. However, Jonas isn’t like the rest of the people in his community because he has the ability to see color and have feelings. Throughout the story, Jonas is a hardworking and determined character.