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At the end of The Giver, Jonas and Gabe head down through the snow to a place where there is music.

Downward, downward, faster and faster. Suddenly he was aware with certainty and joy that below, ahead, they were waiting for him; and they were waiting, too, for the baby. For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing.
Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo.

This ending is kind of confusing. What happened? Did he travel back in time, as implied by the line 'of space and time'? Where did they end up?

Where did they go and how did they get there?

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  • I remember having read this. I think this is an open ending, that whether Jonas succeeded releasing the memory. However it is not clear to me why the fact that Jonas left the Community would cause people regain memory of color, music etc., since Jonas left them and where can they retrieve the memory (that Jonas kept in his head)? When Jonas was with the community, they cannot in fact retrieve the memory, on the contrary. I didn't get it. Feb 13 '17 at 10:48
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It's an ambiguous ending.

The immediate description is that Jonas has found another pocket of civilization -- and that this one is characterized by joy, music, singing. He and Gabe slide down through the snow to them, in the hopes that they will reach the community on time, be taken in, and nursed back to health.

However, in Jonas's weakened state, this vision is not entirely reliable -- and elements of the paragraph make him less reliable yet. The "sense that he heard music behind him" -- probably impossible -- "but perhaps it was only an echo" is a fairly strong implication that Jonas cannot really tell what he is seeing or hearing. Similarly, his sudden certainty that "they were waiting for him; and they were waiting, too, for the baby" is obviously not a rational one -- even if it is true, Jonas has no way of knowing it.

So a lot of Jonas's certainty and excitement here are entirely unreliable. It's possible that he does see, or hear, something, and is responding to it deliriously. It's also possible that there's nothing there, and this is Jonas's final, comforting delusion immediately before collapse.

So, it's ambiguous. Either they found a haven, or they died; you don't know for certain. Which you consider more likely is your own interpretation...


Eventually Lowry wrote additional books in the series, where Jonas has clearly lived. Gathering Blue (published in 2000) only gives an ambiguous hint that Jonas has survived and arrived into the town where the sequel takes place; but in Messenger (2004) and Son (2012) this is made explicit, and Jonas appears as a speaker character. However, I believe The Giver was originally written as a standalone book (the next one was written seven years later), and certainly stands as one. So, whether or not the sequels "determine" the meaning of the ending of the book, is also up to you :)

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    The last book "Son" actually ties directly back to "The Giver" - it's about Gabe's mom trying to find Gabe.
    – Ash
    Feb 24 '18 at 20:10
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Standback's answer already tells you how the ending of The Giver is deliberately ambiguous. In this answer I'd just like to add some some quotes where Lois Lowry directly confirms that she has indeed intended to write an ambiguous ending.

The FAQ page of Lois Lowry's homepage used to address this the most clearly, before she revised it between 2006 and 2007.

What happened at the end of THE GIVER?

I made the ending ambiguous on purpose. "Ambiguous" means that it can have different explanations. I like to leave it that way so that each reader can use his or her imagination and decide what is happening. But I do think it is a happy ending.

Yes, I understand all that, but please would you tell me what really happened?

No. Cut it out.

An earlier reference is the acceptance speech for the Newberry Medal, an award that Lois Lowry received for The Giver in 1994, part of which also talks about the meaning of the ending. You can get the text of this speech from Lowry's homepage. Quoting page 7:

Those of you who hoped that I would stand here tonight and reveal the “true” ending, the “right” interpretation of the ending, will be disappointed. There isn’t one. There’s a right one for each of us, and it depends on our own beliefs, our own hopes.

Lowry also lists some possible interpretations of the ending after this.

Lowry also confirms this briefly in an interview from 2014-05 (see also the video recording of this interview):

Because the book I could end ambiguously, and did, and the publisher allowed me to.

She also mentions in that interview that she got a lot of letters asking about the ending of the Giver, so your question is a FAQ. However, this interview advertises the Giver movie that would be in the movies shortly after, thus it is deliberately avoiding spoilers, so no more details are given here.

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After reading this book I interpreted that Jonas died, and therefore, Gabe died too. I believe this because Jonas states his favorite memories which could recall something like the life flashing before your eyes. It also says in the book that he saw red, blue, and yellow lights, which could take it to where he was going towards the light. So this is why I interpret that they died!

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    "It also says in the book that he saw red, blue, and yellow lights, which could take it to where he was going towards the light." - I don't understand what this has to do with him dying?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 25 '18 at 4:13

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