Jonas begins to perceive and eventually starts to see color.
In Jonas’s world, there is no color. In fact, there is nothing to differentiate any kind of experience. The community, as Jonas’s government is called, has decided on Sameness. Sameness is the idea that everything will be so tightly controlled that no one will ever be distinguished from anyone else except for in insignificant ways. Therefore, no will ever feel left out or experience discomfort. No one ever needs to make a choice.
Jonas does not notice the absence of color, because he does not know what it is. When he first begins to perceive something is different, he is beginning to notice that something is different. This is when he is playing catch with Asher with an apple—a red apple.
There was absolutely nothing remarkable about that apple. He had tossed it back and forth between his hands a few times, then thrown it again to Asher. And again—in the air, for an instant only—it had changed. (Ch. 3)
Jonas notices something different about the apple. No one else does. He brings the apple home to inspect it—getting publicly chastised for doing so—but it remains colorless. He notices other slight differences, such as Fiona’s hair, which is also red, but it is not until after he begins his training that he actually begins to see color and learn what it is. Then he learns that it is the color red, and can see all of the colors. He learns that the community has given up color.
It was the colors that fascinated him. "Why can't everyone see them? Why did colors disappear?" (Ch. 12)
He learns then why everyone gave up color, so that they could be comfortable and happy. Jonas is still early in his training, so he accepts that people might make the wrong choice if they were given a chance. It is not until later that he realizes that this is a false sense of security, and things are very wrong in this community. The cost of this security is just too high.