How did The Giver explain the visual phenomena that Jonas witnessed, and what did it reveal about the community in The Giver?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Giver tells Jonas that he is beginning to see the color red, and the community has eliminated color.

Jonas first notices color when he is throwing an apple to Asher and he sees it change.  He can’t figure out what is happening, but something about the apple is different.

But suddenly Jonas had noticed, following the path of the apple through the air with his eyes, that the piece of fruit had--well, this was the part that he couldn't adequately understand--the apple had changed. Just for an instant. (Ch. 3)

Jonas does not find out what actually happened until later.  He sees this change again at the Ceremony of Twelve, in the faces of the people in the audience, and then in Fiona’s hair.  He tells The Giver and the old man explains to him what is happening.  He is beginning to see the color red.  When he gets more memories, he will see all of the colors.

The choice to eliminate color was one of the ways the community enforced Sameness.  Sameness means that everyone looks alike and everyone dresses alike, but it also means that no one has any choices.  When Jonas begins to see color, The Giver explains to Jonas that the community eliminated color in order to ensure that the community had total control.

"Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences." He thought for a moment. "We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others." (Ch. 12)

Eliminating colors seems like a small thing, until we realize how much individuality is expressed through color.  It is why uniforms are used in our world.  Color distinguishes us.  If you eliminate it altogether, it is the most unifying factor possible. It eliminates choice.  It eliminates difference.  It makes distinction impossible.  Eliminate color, and everything looks basically the same.