What Does the Ending of Lois Lowry’s The Giver Mean? (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

How do you interpret the ending of Lois Lowry’s The Giver?

The Ending of the Giver

Spoilers ahead for The Giver and, of course, its ending!

Lois Lowry’s The Giver ends ambiguously with the main character Jonas escaping from his society along with the baby Gabriel, whom he has rescued from being euthanized for the crime of not fitting in. As the two travel through the snow, they reach the top of a hill. Jonas believes he sees lights in the distance. But is Jonas really seeing the lights of a village that can save them? A place where he and Gabriel can start a new life? Or is Jonas dying in the snow from exposure, perhaps only hallucinating?

Now, of course, Lowry has gone on to write a number of companion books to The Giver, apparently answering conclusively whether or not Jonas has survived. For readers unfamiliar with these books, however, the question lingers: Did Jonas and Gabriel make it? And how could Lowry do this to readers? Especially to young readers? Aren’t books for tweens and teens supposed to have happy, uplifting messages? Endings that provide hope instead of confusion?

Personally, I like my stories to have happy endings. When I first read The Giver, I knew that Jonas and Gabriel had survived. I never questioned it. I actually did not realize for some time that there were people out there who believed the two had died. After all, what kind of an ending is that? It would be really awful to believe that Jonas sacrificed so much, gave up his family and his home and the only life he has ever known, just to perish in the snow. Maybe he saved his society in the process, giving them back their memories and their emotions, but for him to have to die for it, so young, would be so unfair!

And I’m sticking to that. I have never read the companions to The Giver because, to me, The Giver stands on its own. I never felt that the story had to continue or that I needed to know more. Maybe one day I will turn to these books, just to see what else Lowry has to say. But, I still know that Jonas and Gabriel survived. They have to. Because they deserve a happy ending, and a new beginning. If the choice rests with me as the reader to decide their fate, I am going to give them the happiness I believe they should have.

What do you think about the ending of The Giver? And have you read the companion books?

20 thoughts on “What Does the Ending of Lois Lowry’s The Giver Mean? (Classic Remarks)

  1. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    I always thought it was a happy ending, too, and was baffled the first time I learned some people thought it wasn’t!

    I guess I assume happy endings in general. In grad school, the professor said he thought the ending of a certain novel ended with suicide, and I think all of us just looked at him stunned. I never would have run it that way!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I know…. I was so confused when I first realized people thought the ending of The Giver was tragic! I get the signs are there, but…the signs are also there for a happy ending! And isn’t happiness better? 😀

      Like

  2. MetalPhantasmReads says:

    I think they lived as well. I read the book in college for the first time and that was my immediate thought. I did read Gathering Blue as a child, not knowing it was connected to the series and really loved it but I want to try it again 🙂 I haven’t heard fantastic things about the last two so I’m not sure if I’ll continue with it. Great post!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Hm, yeah, one of the other comments says The Giver is “more believable” than the others. I’ve just never felt the need for me. It seemed to me that The Giver ended powerfully and that was enough. But sometimes I do wonder what else Lowry came up with!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amber says:

    Omg. I just reread this after more than a decade and I’d FORGOTTEN the ending and was enraged by the cliffhanger? And the fact that book two is not about Jonas. Emotionally, I do think it’s a happy ending (not a bad one) but it feels so unfinished and I’m unsatisfied.

    Clearly this wound is too fresh for me to have a rational conversation about it. 🤣

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Haha! That’s too funny! I think ambiguous endings CAN be very frustrating. Sometimes readers just want to KNOW! Is that too much to ask? 😉

      Like

  4. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Lowry is on record as being shocked people would have assumed Jonas and Gabriel died at the end of this book. It never occurred to her. You’re not alone here!

    I love that my perspective is the opposite — It never occurred to me they would have survived! It seems so… unlikely. But I’m so glad that you have this positive outlook.

    As you know, I also won’t be reading the rest of the series. I do wonder if Lowry continued writing them as a way to show everyone that this book really did have a happy ending by bringing Jonas and Gabriel back in the future?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ofmariaantonia says:

    I love the ending of The Giver! (And I’m with you. I never thought they died.)

    In the later books, they are very much alive. The fourth book (Son) is the one that is most connected to The Giver. I think my favorite of the quartet (not counting #1, of course) is Messenger (#3). They are interesting reads in and of themselves, but they don’t have the same power as The Giver.

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  6. Never Not Reading says:

    I also like happy endings. It would sure be nice to believe that Jonah and Gabe made it and live happily ever after, and maybe they even go all District-13 on the community and liberate everyone.

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  7. Milliebot says:

    I like a happy ending but I also like when books leave me that special kind of sad or bittersweet feeling. I liked the ambiguity and the hope of the ending, but also being unsure of what really happened next. It’s been some years since I reread it and even more since I read 2 of the sequels. I need to reread them all so I can read Son.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Good point! I love The Lord of the Rings and much of its power comes, I think, from the bittersweet ending! Because, sometimes, a straightforward happy ending doesn’t feel quite right.

      Like

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