Jonas’s friend Asher demonstrates the community’s inability to truly enforce Sameness, and provides an example of a person for whom life in the community is not entirely comfortable. Although Jonas considers Asher his best friend, Jonas looks down on Asher’s distractibility, even speculating that Asher’s parents delayed applying for another child because Asher is so exhausting. Asher’s foibles involve small issues, such as word confusion, that appear to stem from an underlying issue, possibly a learning disability. The community’s methods of shame and physical discipline cannot force Asher to better fit the mold. While Asher never trespasses enough to warrant release, his inability to fit neatly into the community’s rules nevertheless vexes the elders. Even when Asher receives his assignment, a moment meant to celebrate his achievements, the Chief Elder tells a humiliating story of a teacher hitting Asher. Asher responds with a “rueful” expression of discomfort. Given Asher’s continued language issues, the story appears less a fond anecdote and more a public humiliation.
While everyone treats Jonas differently after his selection as Receiver, Asher’s awkwardness in particular hurts Jonas, and suggests jealousy. When Jonas stops his friends from playing a game of war, Asher quickly asserts his newfound expertise in game-playing as Assistant Director of Recreation, emphasizing that he has knowledge that Jonas does not. Asher’s insistence that Jonas’s Receiver assignment does not grant him authority over games shows how uncomfortable their different statuses make him. When Asher apologizes, he doesn’t apologize for making Jonas uncomfortable with the game of war but for not respecting Jonas’s position. Asher cannot understand Jonas’s attempt to explain the horrible reality of war, and Jonas’s inability to explain the terrors he has received from The Giver widens the gap between them.