Seeing Colour

Interview with 15-year old Nathan

In The Giver the society Jonas lives in is devoid of emotions and pain.  It is also absent in colour.

Colour plays a very important part in both the book by Lois Lowry, and Kaleidoscope’s stage production of the novel. Through The Giver, Jonas is able to discover colour for the first time.  Red is the first colour that he begins to see, unlike the others in his society who still see no colour.  The Giver states to Jonas: “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 colour when we relinquished sunshine and did away with difference. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.” (Lowery, L.)

15-year old Nathan has grown up with a type of colour blindness that affects the colours red and green. Recently, Nathan has been able to see these colours for the first time through special glasses. Anna Shill sat down with Nathan to ask him a few questions about what this has been like for him.

What type of colour blindness do you have?

Red and green colour blindness. Those two colours look duller to me. Colours that have those colours in them are also affected so things often look flat or grey to me.

How old were you when you found out?

I was three. My mother’s brother and my grandmother’s brothers all have the same form of colour blindness. Women usually carry the condition and it’s more common in men than women so my mother had me tested when I was little as she suspected I would likely inherit it. Turns out I did!

You recently got special glasses that allow you to see red and green? What was that experience like?

Yes! They are made by a company called EnChroma. This summer my mom took me down to the store and we tried them on. They had a few things in the store for me to look at specifically to test whether or not the classes were working. There was this little mouse on the table. It looked grey to me but I put on the glasses and realized it was pink!

There are two types of these glasses; indoor and outdoor. I have the outdoor ones. They let me take the glasses for a walk around the block before I bought them. I stepped outside and everything was different. I saw deep reds, bright oranges and vibrant greens. There is so much depth to colour! With the glasses on everything jumped out at me. Without them, the colours returned to looking flat.

What stood out for you the most with your new glasses?

Traffic pylons. Before the glasses, they looked like any other colour. With the glasses on I realized they pop out way more than anything else and I can tell now why they make traffic pylon that colour!

Nature is also one of the biggest things. The greens in nature are so amazing. I love wearing my glasses outdoors when it’s sunny. Before a nature walk or a car ride into town was dull and everything looked grey. Now I can see everything.

What is the biggest change colour has brought to your life?

I never understood colour coding. Colour now has become a much more prominent thing in my life, so I use it now to distinguish and compartmentalize.

Colour has also changed who I am. The world is also a lot brighter so it makes me a lot happier! Driving around not wearing my glasses feels normal. With them on, I see so much more to the world and I want to look at everything! Colour makes me excited and happy.

Have you read The Giver by Lois Lowry? How can you relate to this story?

Yes. I read the book a few years ago and I remember thinking about the themes of colour and how that related to me. When Jonas first saw colour he sees the world in a completely new light. That’s kind of what it was like for me when I first wore the EnChroma glasses. Colour vision adds so much to the world you don’t think about a lot.

What is your favourite colour?

Red! It used to be blue because it was one of the few colours unaffected by my condition. Now it is red! It is so bright and vibrant.

Thanks, Nathan!

Kaleidoscope’s production of THE GIVER takes to the stage February 22-24 at the McPherson Playhouse.