Explain the symbolism of each of the following: an apple, the color red, December, the sled, light-colored eyes, and the river.
Each of these items is symbolic for a different reason. Let's look at each one individually.
The apple represents forbidden knowledge. This idea comes from the Bible and the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. In the community where Jonas lives, he can see color on the apple, which is not something everyone else can see because the community has removed color from its world in order to achieve Sameness. Therefore, Jonas has access to forbidden knowledge.
The color red is often seen as a rebellious color. If we look at the things in the book that are red, this makes sense as a symbol. The apple is red (forbidden knowledge), the sled is red (it represents a means of transportation that is no longer allowed during a season that no longer occurs), and Fiona's hair (Jonas begins to have sexual feelings for her, which is forbidden).
Usually December represents winter and holidays, specifically the Christmas season. In his society, Jonas does not know about either one because they have been banned. December becomes symbolic of a bygone world, and a seemingly happier one.
The sled represents freedom. Jonas feels free when he is riding it in the first memory he is given, in a way he has never felt before. It also brings him a new level of excitement and happiness he has never before felt. In a way, the sled not only represents physical freedom, but intellectual freedom. This is the first memory Jonas gets and it exposes him to a world he never knew about.
Light-colored eyes represent the people who have access to forbidden knowledge. Light-colored eyes represent sight, not just literal sight, but insight. The insight these few people have is insight that no one else in the community has.
The river is often symbolic in any piece of literature as life itself. In this community, it acts as a border, and the river is symbolic of a limited life, or a life lived within limits.