Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What Happened to Jonas? The Question Remains

Recently in Rogate, our class just finished the novel The Giver by Louis Lowry.  I personally thought that The Giver was an excellent book, and even though I didn’t really like the ending, it has encouraged countless heated debates worldwide, some even taking part in our very classroom.  The novel ends with Jonas and Gabriel sliding down a snowy hill on a sled (just like the one in the first memory The Giver gave Jonas), and as they slide down the hill, Jonas suddenly begins to hear music and laughter.  He sees glowing lights awaiting him, just like the ones in the Christmas memory.  The book ends, leaving behind one big question: What happened to Jonas? Or more specifically: Did Jonas and Gabriel make it, or did they perish in the harsh landscape far from the community? Even though there may be other theories, those are the two main ideas. 

There are many different opinions on what actually happened to Jonas and Gabriel, yet I personally believe that Jonas did die.  In the story, before Jonas found the sled, he was using every little ounce of warmth left inside of him from his memories to keep him and Gabriel from dying.  Jonas had to use every bit of strength that he had left to fight back the peaceful and never-ending sleep that haunted his every step.  Jonas had not prepared enough for the journey, and soon enough had run out of food.  By the time Jonas got caught in the blizzard, he was already starving, drained, and injured.  He was weak and in much pain.  At that time, Jonas was working hard to keep Gabriel alive.  Jonas physically, was very close to death.  When he began to hear the music and the laughter, and see the glowing lights as he slid down the hill, I believe that was Jonas simply passing on into Heaven.  Before people pass, they usually feel at peace.  Jonas felt like he was at peace at last, and all of the hunger and pain went away.  When Jonas gave away other memories, he still had slivers of them left behind that he could just faintly remember.  I believe that since Jonas was dying, the memory was leaving him and he was holding on to the last bits of it as he passed into Heaven with Gabe.  At the end of the book in the last paragraph, the last sentence states: ‘Behind him, across the 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.’ 

The Giver once told Jonas that if he died, then his memories would be sent back to the community and ALL of the people there would have to carry these memories with them.  They would have the memories of love and family, and also those of pain and death.  I believe that since Jonas was dying, the memory was leaving him and the echo he heard, across the vast distance of space all of the way back to the community, was the memory alive once more in the people of the community.  Jonas had felt such a strong connection with the memory, that perhaps he really could hear its echo from the community.

In one interview with Louis Lowry, a student asks:

Student Question: My teachers argue over the ending of The Giver! How does it really end?
Lois Lowry: It ends with Jonas and Gabriel going downhill in a sled toward a house with welcoming lights. Ho ho ho. Aren’t I a mean author, not to be more specific? I like it when you argue. It makes you think.

This shows that Lowry, even if she actually did plan out what really happened to Jonas, she would still have kept it a secret anyways.  She wants these debates and discussions to occur, and purposely made the ending ambiguous, to let readers think thoroughly and deeply about what happened to Jonas (and Gabe too).  She wants readers to make their own assumptions. 
Another interview with Louis Lowry states:

Student Question: Scholastic’s reading guide for The Giver includes an interview in which you’ve quoted saying that you would never want to write a sequel–
Louis Lowry: Uh huh. Oh, how I wish I had never said that publicly! [laughs] It comes back to haunt me. I didn’t have any intention of writing a sequel. I liked the ambiguity of the ending. Over the years, though, it became clear that younger readers in particular did not. The amount of mail I got passionately asking what had happened to Jonas — I suppose after a period of time, it made me wonder as well. So I guess it was in response to the kids who didn’t quit asking and wondering.

This interview shows that Lowry herself didn’t have an actual ending planned for Jonas and Gabe.  In this interview, Lowry herself states that she did wonder too about what happened to them.  This shows that Lowry was not planning on writing a sequel to The Giver, and would not have if it wasn’t for the persistent young readers insisting on a sequel.  This goes along with what I said in the interview above; she left it for readers to create their own ending.  It appears that many did not like the unknown ending of The Novel, including me, and I would much rather have a sad ending, rather than no ending at all.

In other interviews Lowry states that as a kid she would have liked the ambiguity of the ending, but society and the youth today want precision since ‘we live in times that are in many ways ambiguous’.  As I mentioned before, I strongly dislike “cliff hangers” and I do like exact endings, however, I do like thinking about books after I read them, and the plot and the theme of the stories.  Perhaps Jonas really did survive after all with Gabe, or perhaps they both died.  I suppose the only way to find out is to now read Messenger.

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