How is color significant in The Giver? What is the true meaning of color?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What's your favorite color? As a matter of fact, what's your favorite movie or TV show? These are questions unknown to the people in The Giver because they don't have these things. People use these questions to get to know another person better; but in Jonas's world, they live under Sameness, a philosophy that eliminates preference. When people have preferences then they act like individuals rather than parts to a communal whole. The whole premise behind the way the community is structured is if preferences are gone, then people will focus more on the success of the community's goals rather than living life for individual dreams or aspirations. 

When Jonas receives memories from the Giver, he is also able to discern between colors. He asks the Giver why everyone can't see colors and the response is as follows:

"Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. . . We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences. . . We gained control of many things. But we had to let others go" (95).

From the answer Jonas receives, to the other clues from the text, it seems that color is significant because it leads to people desiring preference. Once people have preferences, then they see that there is a choice; and when they discover the power that comes with making one's own choices, they'll want to choose other things, such as their jobs, families, and dreams. For example, Jonas catches glimpses of Fiona's hair color--red. If he could differentiate between her hair color and another girl's hair, he could start to prefer Fiona to another girl. As a result, he might be tempted to stop taking the pills each day that suppress sensual feelings as well. If everyone in the community preferred one person over another, then people would want to choose their spouses and that's not what the community wants. The community wants to be able to control family units without emotional ties so the ebb and flow of the community will always support Sameness and not individuality.

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The Giver

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