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The Color Of Water, By James Mc Bride

869 words - 3 pages

The novel, The Color of Water follows the author and narrator James McBride and his mother Ruth’s life, through their childhood—when they were both embarrassed about their mother—through the part of their lives where they began to accept themself for who they are and became proud of it. Moreover, this memoir is quite distinctive as McBride cleverly parallels his story to his mother, Ruth’s story by using dual narration which further helps to contribute to the theme of self-identity. Throughout the novel, McBride searches for identity and a sense of self that derives from his multiracial family and through the use of two different narrations, McBride slowly establishes his identity. Plus by integrating both narratives at the end, McBride also shows that although both narrators at the beginning had different upbringing, in the end they come together and understand each other’s perspective.
To begin with, the dual narratives of the text here present a unique mixture of chronology and perspective. Moreover, noteworthy is also McBride’s usage of the rhetorical strategy of alternate chapters and parallelism. This can be seen when McBride remarkably places related chapters together to juxtapose the life of his mother and that of himself. This allows one to observe the parallelism in the two lives and to understand the significance Rachel's life had on McBride. For example, McBride places the chapter titled “Shul” and “School” next to each other with each giving a view of the problems they faced in school. Here both Ruth and James are struggling and are trying to fit in but are rejected due to racial and social conflicts. Another example is “The New Testament” and “The Old Testament.” Both of these chapters revolve around the embarrassment Ruth and James feel for their circumstances. In “The New Testament,” McBride feels ashamed of having an eccentric white mother, who when singing the hymns in church sounds “like a cross between cold engine trying to crack on an October morning and a Maytag washer” (45). Contrastingly, Ruth on other hand is also humiliated of her state of being. In the chapter “The Old Testament”, for instance, Ruth mentions “[she] was poor and Jewish and [her] mother was handicapped” (38). Additionally, during this time period, Jewish people were already looked down upon and ostracized; on top of that she had a handicapped mother that attracted more attention, causing more mortification for Ruth. These parallelisms here act as a kind of foreshadowing device as well as help McBride acknowledge more about his mother’s life and learn the fact that even though they come from divergent cultures, they both encountered situations where they had to...

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