In The Giver, what does Jonas learn from seeing the color red in the apple, the faces of the crowd, Fiona's hair and the sled?

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The color red is significant in The Giver.  The first time Jonas “sees beyond” is when he notices an apple change color.  He also sees color in the faces of the crowd during the Ceremony of Twelve, Fiona’s hair and the sled in the memory.  In The Giver, red is a symbolic color.  It represents difference, and therefore emotion.  All of the objects that are red or turn red are connected to deep emotions for Jonas.

The apple is the first red Jonas sees, and he does not recognize at first that he is seeing a color.  The apple changing color foreshadows later change for Jonas, and foreshadows his later experience with the feeling of love.

Jonas feels a connection with Fiona from the start.  Her red hair compromises the community’s sameness.  When Jonas notices her hair, he recognizes that she is different.  He also has strong feelings for her.  His sexual feelings, represented by the dream with the bathtub, are at first repressed by the Stirrings pills.  When he stops taking the pills, these feelings may potentially grow into love.

Although at first we do not realize the significance of the faces of the community changing color, we later learn that Jonas feels love for the people of his community even though he deeply disagrees with much of what they do.  He realizes that they do not know any better, and that he and The Giver have a responsibility to care about them.  This is the reason Jonas leaves the community, to save them from themselves.

Finally, the red sled is a powerful memory.  The sled being red connects another emotion, pain, to the feelings of love that are associated with the color red.  Love is a strong emotion that can cause pain, although not the physical pain of the sled.  While the people in the community do not see the color red, a strong emotion, or any other color, representative of other emotions, Jonas does see and he does feel.  He realizes that to be human, one must see and feel even if it is painful.


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Jonas is seeing the color red. He has never seen in color before, and this is a new experienced for him.

Taking the medication inhibits color vision for the members of the community. The requirement of "sameness" for each member of society means that variations of hair color, eye color and other differences be limited. The members of society are medicated in such a way that they cannot distinguish one color from another and may only see in shades of gray.

Because Jonas has been selected as the receiver of the community's memory, he has a need to know everything about everything.  Therefore, he stops taking the medication and is open to knowledge of everything, color, feelings, history, etc.

Since no one other than the "old receiver" has any idea of color, Jonas must go to The Giver in order to receive the idea of color and the understanding that there are many colors.

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