Chapters 1–4

Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a regimented community that is free from pain and suffering — but also free from joy, independence, and even color. When he is appointed the community's Receiver of Memory, Jonas begins to question everything he has been taught.

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definitions & notes
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  1. intrigue

    cause to be interested or curious
    Occasionally, when supplies were delivered by cargo planes to the landing field across the river, the children rode their bicycles to the riverbank and watched,
    intrigued, the unloading and then the takeoff directed to the west, always away from the community.
  2. jeer

    laugh at with contempt and derision
    Even the children were scolded if they used the term lightly at play,
    jeering at a teammate who missed a catch or stumbled in a race.
    The children would also be scolded for showing any feelings of contempt or derision (synonyms that mean "open disrespect for a person or thing"). In this community that relies on cooperation, cheering happens more often than jeering.
  3. palpable

    capable of being perceived
    Now, thinking about the feeling of fear as he pedaled home along the river path, he remembered that moment of
    palpable, stomach-sinking terror when the aircraft had streaked above.
  4. distraught

    deeply agitated especially from emotion
    I guess I just got
    distraught, watching them.
    Here, Asher is using the wrong word to describe his feeling, since he wasn't upset but distracted with salmon-watching. This sentence would be more fitting if it had been Jonas describing his feeling in watching an airplane streak twice above the community; it could also foreshadow a later scene involving Jonas and airplanes.
  5. wheedle

    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    But like all parents—all adults—they didn’t fight and
    wheedle for their turn.
  6. complicated

    difficult to analyze or understand
    His feelings were too
    complicated this evening.
  7. sift

    check and sort carefully
    He wanted to share them, but he wasn’t eager to begin the process of
    sifting through his own complicated emotions, even with the help that he knew his parents could give.
  8. defiant

    boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
    She held up a clenched fist and the rest of the family smiled at her small
    defiant gesture.
    The family could smile at Lily's defiant gesture because she is only a Seven whose clenched fist is not opposing but supporting the community, since it is directed at a visiting Seven who didn't obey the rules. Even so, the family helps Lily to resolve her anger, and she apologizes for making the fist. This scene can be contrasted with Jonas's later acts of defiance, which increasingly require more boldness.
  9. resolve

    understand the meaning of
    Lily’s feelings were always straightforward, fairly simple, usually easy to
    "Resolve" also means "reach a conclusion after a discussion or deliberation"--both definitions fit the purpose of the "evening telling of feelings" ritual; this sounds like a healthy way for families to bond, but as Jonas is discovering, it is also uncomfortably forced, since feelings can be too complicated or private to resolve in an after-dinner discussion.
  10. sympathetic

    expressing compassion or friendly fellow feelings
    “Oh, no,” Mother murmured sympathetically. “I know how sad that must make you feel.”

    Jonas and Lily both nodded sympathetically as well.
  11. capacity

    capability to perform or produce
    Most of the people on the night crew had not even been given spouses because they lacked, somehow, the essential
    capacity to connect to others, which was required for the creation of a family unit.
  12. overwhelming

    very intense
    To see him brought before her a second time caused her
    overwhelming feelings of frustration and anger. And even guilt, that she hadn’t made a difference in his life.
  13. soothe

    cause to feel better
    Soon she smiled, thanked them, and murmured that she felt
  14. apprehensive

    mentally upset over possible misfortune or danger
    “I’m feeling
    apprehensive,” he confessed, glad that the appropriate descriptive word had finally come to him.
  15. fortunate

    having unexpected good luck
    I felt very
  16. envy

    set one's heart on
    And he didn't
    envy Laborers at all.
  17. reassured

    having confidence restored; freed from anxiety
    Though he had been
    reassured by the talk with his parents, he hadn’t the slightest idea what Assignment the Elders would be selecting for his future, or how he might feel about it when the day came.
  18. chastisement

    verbal punishment
    Lily, he decided, would have to learn that soon, or she would be called in for
    chastisement because of her insensitive chatter.
  19. self-conscious

    excessively aware of your appearance or behavior
    He felt
    self-conscious, realizing that he, too, had that look.
  20. petulant

    easily irritated or annoyed
    I think I’d like that,” Lily said petulantly.
  21. humiliation

    strong feelings of embarrassment
    Everyone had known, he remembered with
    humiliation, that the announcement attention, this is a reminder TO MALE ELEVENS THAT OBJECTS ARE NOT TO BE REMOVED FROM THE RECREATION AREA AND THAT SNACKS are TO BE eaten, not hoarded had been specifically directed at him, the day last month that he had taken an apple home.
    "Humiliation" also means "state of disgrace or loss of self-respect"--both definitions fit because Jonas knew he'd done something wrong, everyone had known he'd done something wrong, and the public announcement called attention to the fact that he'd done something wrong.
  22. remorse

    a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
    No one had mentioned it, not even his parents, because the public announcement had been sufficient to produce the appropriate
    The role the apple plays here could be compared to the fruit in the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden: both knew the rule, yet were tempted to break it by the possibility of a strange knowledge; both experienced feelings of shame and disgrace. Unlike Jonas, no amount of remorse or apologizing could help Eve regain her place; unlike Eve, Jonas soon discovers that his place is not paradise.
  23. bewilderment

    confusion resulting from failure to understand
    He probably should have brought up his feeling of
    bewilderment that very evening when the family unit had shared their feelings of the day.
  24. mystified

    totally perplexed and mixed up
    Jonas had been completely
  25. reflective

    deeply or seriously thoughtful
    The evening proceeded as all evenings did in the family unit, in the dwelling, in the community: quiet,
    reflective, a time for renewal and preparation for the day to come.
  26. awkward

    hard to deal with, especially causing pain or embarrassment
    He knew him, of course, since they had always been groupmates, but they had never talked about the boys' accomplishments because such a conversation would have been
    awkward for Benjamin.
  27. serene

    not agitated
    It was a
    serene and slow-paced place, unlike the busy centers of manufacture and distribution where the daily work of the community occurred.
  28. mischievous

    naughtily or annoyingly playful
    But to be honest,” she whispered with a mischievous look, “some of the tellings are a little boring.
  29. fond

    having a strong preference or liking for
    I’ve never been
    fond of public speaking.
  30. chortle

    laugh quietly or with restraint
    Maybe they’d study it,” Jonas said slyly, and Larissa
    chortled with laughter.
Created on September 26, 2013
(updated July 19, 2018)