The Giver ends with Jonas’s rejection of his community’s ideal of Sameness. He decides to rescue Gabriel and escape the community, and they grow steadily weaker as they travel through an unfamiliar wintery landscape. At the top of a hill, Jonas finds a sled and rides it down toward a community with lit windows and music. Lowry does not confirm whether the two survive, because the reader can either interpret the sled as a hallucination of Jonas’s dying mind, or as a fortunate coincidence. Upon first seeing the top of the hill, Jonas believes that he remembers the place, and it is “a memory of his own,” as opposed to one from the Giver. Because Jonas doesn’t have his own memories of snow, the meaning of this sentence is not obvious. This confusion could signify Jonas’s deterioration. However, Jonas may also recognize that the hill and sled signify the presence of a community that allows for sleds and snow. Jonas calls his destination “Elsewhere,” an ambiguous term because the community uses it both to refer to places outside the community and the destination of people who have been “released,” or euthanized. Additionally, the reader cannot take the lights Jonas sees in the windows at face value. Light symbolizes hope, but people also often talk about seeing light right before death.
The ambiguity of the ending highlights the unpredictable, heightened nature of emotions. One of the benefits of living in the community is that citizens gain a predictable, comfortable life. Death itself rarely comes without warning due to the scheduled releases of the elderly and careful monitoring at all other times. However, the protection this predictability creates also numbs the populace to feelings. By rejecting the community, Jonas and Gabriel may regain the heightened pleasures of emotions, but they also gain the heightened pain, and beyond that, uncertainty. They can now choose their own fates, but no one can guarantee their success. The possibility that Jonas hallucinates the sled and the lights in the distance, therefore, must remain. However, the tone of the last two paragraphs remains hopeful. Jonas feels love toward his family and friends, hears music for the first time, and feels “certainty and joy” as he believes himself to be going to a better Elsewhere. Even if Jonas and Gabriel do not survive, their freedom in and of itself is triumphant.