Why can't Jonas see color in The Giver?

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Jonas and the other community members are unable to see color because the community has eliminated colors in an effort to maintain sameness.

Sameness is the community’s name for complete control over everyone’s lives.  They want to ensure that everyone in the community shares the same experiences, as much as they can.  For some reason, they have determined that color is dangerous.  Although it is not entirely clear why color is gone, other than the fact that it differentiates things, and any kind of differentiation is bad in this world.

When Jonas first begins to see color, he asks the Giver why the colors are gone.  Even he does not really seem to understand why.  His answer is to shrug.

"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." (Ch. 12)

Jonas is not even aware that colors exist, and that he does not have them, until he begins to see the color red when tossing an apple.  The fact that he sees skin tones next indicates to us one reason why they might have eliminated color.  It would seem to eliminate racism.  They can’t even tell what color a person’s hair is.  The fact that Jonas has light colored eyes they can tell, and it is a source of secret shame or embarrassment to them.  Any difference is not to be tolerated.

Another reason for eliminating color is clear when Jonas begins discussing choices with The Giver.  The seemingly innocent discussion of choosing choices of colored clothes comes up.

"But now that I can see colors, at least sometimes, I was just thinking: what if we could hold up things that were bright red, or bright yellow, and he could choose? Instead of the Sameness."

"He might make wrong choices." (Ch. 13)

So there is the issue.  Even with the simplest matter of choosing what color clothing to wear, one might make the wrong choice.  If we eliminate the ability to see color, color no longer matters, and there is no choice.  Another choice is eliminated, and it becomes easier to have Sameness.  As long as we have Sameness, the people are safe from all emotion.  Peace reigns supreme.

 As soon as Jonas begins to see color, he begins to question.  In fact, it is the beginning of the unraveling of his world.  He starts to notice that things are not what they seem.  The perfect world is far from that.  He learns about release, and finds out that the dark secrets are more than he can take, so he bolts.  He cannot remain in a world that allows people no freedom.

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What is Jonas's opinion of giving up colours in The Giver?

Jonas says that people should not have given up colors.

When Jonas finds out that he is seeing the color red, he is confused.  He has no idea what color is.  The Giver tells him that there used to be many colors.  Jonas asks why other people can’t see colors.  Only he can see them, as part of the Capacity to See Beyond.

"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, p. 95)

Jonas says that they should not have given up color.  The Giver notes that Jonas came to that conclusion quickly.  He says Jonas might be wiser than some of the Elders who decided to give up the colors in the first place, in favor of Sameness.

The concept of Sameness is important to the community because they do not want people to feel uncomfortable.  For this reason, they try to make choices for everyone, so that no one will make the wrong choices.

Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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What does Jonas think he is missing by not having color in The Giver?

In The Giver, color is symbolic of the larger idea of emotions.  When Jonas develops the Capacity to See Beyond, it opens a window of memories for him.  With those memories come emotions.

Jonas first sees color when he notices something strange about the apple that he is throwing to Asher.  There is an emotional connection between Jonas and the apple.  He sees red when he is helping his friend, but he does not know it.  He even risks punishment by taking the apple home to inspect it further.  Jonas has seen his first glance of a large world, but it only confuses him.

There was absolutely nothing remarkable about that apple. … And again—in the air, for an instant only—it had changed. (ch 3, p. 24).

The incident with the apple is the first time Jonas realizes that he is different from others.  When he is singled out at the Ceremony of Twelve, he is humiliated at first.  Then he realizes he has been given a great honor.  He understands that he deserves it, because he sees the faces change.  He sees the pink tones of their skin, and realizes he does have the Capacity to See Beyond.

But when he looked out across the crowd, the sea of faces, the thing happened again. The thing that had happened with the apple. (ch 9, p. 64)

Thus the colors are the thing that first gets Jonas his job as Receiver of Memory, and therefore they are what give him access to the memories.  Jonas begins to see color because he has those memories.  He feels emotions for the first time. 

Jonas asks The Giver why the people no longer have colors.  He is highly interested in the colors.

Jonas wasn't interested, just then, in wisdom. It was the colors that fascinated him. "Why can't everyone see them? Why did colors disappear?" (ch 12, p. 95)

The community, when moving to Sameness, wanted to eliminate emotions.  Emotions make people weak.  They make them uncomfortable.  They cause conflict.  All of these things need to be eliminated in the community.  This is why Jonas is different. He can see the color, and he can feel the emotions.  He understands what it means to feel.

Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book).  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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What does Jonas think he is missing by not having color in The Giver?

Jonas first starts to understand color by chapter 12 in Lowry's novel The Giver. After describing his experiences with the apple and with Fiona's hair, the Giver realizes that Jonas is discovering the hues of color; so, he gives him the memories of the sled and the hill of snow and of a rainbow so Jonas can really start to learn about joyful memories. Jonas comes back the next day really upset that colors were one of the things/memories sacrificed to maintain peace in his community. In fact, he angrily says, "It's not fair" that society can't see color (97). The Giver asks him to explain, to which he answers, "If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices! I want to wake up in the morning anddecide things! A blue tunic, or a red one?(97). At this point the Giver and Jonas discuss the fact that colors provide opportunities for preference and choice. Without anything specific to choose, then there wouldn't be any disappointment if or when the choice didn't come to the intended result. Disappoint is a type of stress or pain; therefore, it was elliminated along with the colors. Hence, the answer to the question above is that Jonas realizes that through the lack of colors in life, he also lacks the freedom to make choices.

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