Chapter 1, Summary
The first chapter opens with a frightening event for the community in which Jonas, the main character, and his family live. A pilot of a small jet plane makes a wrong turn and flies directly over the community, a serious mistake. It is announced that he will be ‘released,’ a term which is presented here without much exposition, leaving the reader to guess. Hence, the novel begins in a rather ominous mood. Time and place for the story is left open to the reader’s imagination.
We are further introduced to Jonas’s family and his friend, Asher. Jonas is riding his bike home and notices the jet and becomes frightened. That evening, his family goes through the ritual of sharing their feelings. Lily, his sister, is seven years old and talks about her anger at an event that happened at school that day. The ritual is very structured. Each one talks while the others listen. Then Father, to whom the author does not give a name, relates his worry for a newchild he is caring for at the Nurturing Center. Father is a Nurturer, responsible for the physical and emotional needs of every newchild during its early years. Lily refers to the newchild as “it.” Again, suspense is already building up in this first chapter. The reader learns that ‘release’ is given to the elderly and the newchildren in the community, and also as a form of punishment, for example, the pilot.
Mother, who is not named, shares her feelings of guilt, frustration, and anger. She is judge for the Department of Justice. Again, the family listens, and then they all comfort her.
Last, Jonas shares his feelings of apprehension about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve. Lily is asked to leave the room, so Jonas’s parents can talk to him alone.
Chapter 2, Summary
Jonas remembers the Ceremony for the Ones (babies aged up to one year), which is always enjoyable. This is the time when the community assigns names to the children in a Naming list. Father relates his experience with his first assignment at his Ceremony of Twelve to Jonas. He admits he was impatient and did not take much notice of the other ceremonies that took place over the two-day ceremony period. In the Ceremony for the Nines, for example, all the Nines receive bicycles. Both parents try to relieve Jonas’s apprehensions about his assignment at the upcoming Ceremony. The Ceremony of the Twelve is the last and most important ceremony. The Twelves receive their Assignments that will prepare them for their adult lives.
Chapters 1 and 2, Analysis
The author doesn’t give names to the parents in the novel. Also, there is a lack of exposition regarding where and when the story is set. The absence of these elements help to develop a feeling of mystery and dread in the first two chapters. Mother and Father are not given names perhaps because the author wanted them to remain distant from the reader, just as they are distant from their children. They are there in the dwelling with their children to guide and to support them through words, but there is no real human connection. This is the impression given by the dialogue between the characters, for example, when Lily shares her feelings with the family after dinner and Mother asks, “Why do you think the visitors didn’t obey the rules?” It sounds like something a teacher might ask a student. The conversation between the family members is formal, and this creates this feeling of a not-so-friendly atmosphere in the story.