Themes, Motifs, and Symbols of The Giver

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for The Giver

The Giver - Vocabulary Precision Motif


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Activity Overview

Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our supplementary article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism that Lowry uses throughout the novel. In the example storyboard above, there are five themes, motifs, and symbols that are noted in various chapters of the book.



Choices are a major theme in The Giver. Once Jonas has trained for a year, he begins to realize from the memories how sad life is without choices. The colors he begins to see are so beautiful, and he wishes that people could see them. This brings him to ask why people can't choose for themselves; why they can't wake up and pick a blue or red tunic. The community believes that if people make choices, they might carry out the wrong choices, or those choices might lead to something bad happening that violates the community's security.

Freedom vs. Security

Another major theme in the novel is freedom vs. security. The Committee created the idea of a perfect society, and with that comes a sense of safety. No one is ever hungry, everyone has a place, all are cared for. However, citizens must forfeit freedom to maintain this security.

Motifs and Symbols

Vocabulary Precision

A strange motif in the novel is precision of vocabulary. The idea that people in the utopia can articulate precisely suggests that the society can control words, their meanings, and ultimately the feelings associated with them. Thus, in turn, controlling the population, and how they feel.


Throughout the novel the idea of sharing one's feelings reoccurs and is done by everyone in the community. Feelings, whether acceptable or not, are part of who we are as humans. Feeling sharing maintains a level of control over the community. The elders started feeling sharing so that they could police how people should feel.


Dreams are a universal motif in literature. Often, writers use dreams to convey meaning, foreshadow, or to create fear or suspense. Jonas's dreams show the reader his society's oppression. He is not allowed to dream, even though it is pleasant. His dream begin his awakening, as he doesn't understand why dreams are banned.

Other Symbols

  • Snow
  • Sled
  • Gabriel
  • The River
  • Nakedness
  • Release/Death

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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Giver. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Giver you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme


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(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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