The Color Of Water by James McBride

The Color Of Water by James McBride

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In The Color of Water, author James McBride writes both his autobiography and a tribute to the life of his mother, Ruth McBride. In the memoirs of the author’s mother and of himself, they constantly face discrimination from their race in certain neighborhoods and of their religious beliefs. The trials and tribulations faced by these two characters have taught readers universally that everyone faces difficulties in life, but they can all be surmounted.
Whenever Ruth or James McBride face any forms of racism, especially for being related to each other, having different skin colors, they can always look to religion to aid them through these tough times. It appears so that in the book, religion knows no race, and therefore is very accepting to no matter who it may be. In this case, in Chapter 6, the author tells about his past experiences going to Church with his family, and recalling his mother’s true embrace of Christianity, her singing voice, the fact that she was the only white person there, and how odd and exaggerated Reverend Owen’s sermons were whenever going to Whosoever Baptist Church. One afternoon at Church, Ruth McBride was weeping after hearing her favorite songs, like “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. James McBride asks her mother why she cries in Church, and her response is that God makes her happy. He thinks about this a bit more and assumes that maybe God likes black people better, hence having her mother cry at Church. He then asks whether God was black or white. She responds saying that he is not black or white, but a spirit, leading into the main metaphor of the story, saying, “God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.” The metaphor displays how God has no color, no race to him, and would accept anyone, no matter their race. This representative of how Ruth and James McBride were accepted as Christians solely, therefore avoiding any difficulties having to do with race, at least when speaking about it with religion.
The author then looks back upon the time in his life when her mother decided to drive Hunter Jordan’s old car. However, she didn’t know how to drive, and was generally afraid to get behind the wheel. On that day, she drove crazily on the road, and declared to never drive again. James McBride also reflected on his life up to a teenager, who knew that bad things would occur in the not too distant future if he didn’t change his ways and behavior.

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Gradually, James McBride began to give serious consideration to the warnings of his sister Jack and Chicken Man. So he decided, “Like my own mother did in times of stress, I turned to God.” This helped him to cope with all these current problems in his life. He also reflected on his past obsession with drugs, especially marijuana, referring to it as his friend, and it kept him from running from the truth. But the truth was that his mother was falling apart emotionally from the death of her second husband. So with this tragedy, she “staggered about in an emotional stupor for nearly a year.” But in the midst of all this, she did not stop moving, and persisted, as if her life depended on it. Ruth McBride then began the habit of riding her bicycle through the all-black neighborhood she and her children lived, oblivious to everyone’s opinion. The bicycle is a symbol, representing Ruth McBride’s outlet of being able to cope with her second husband’s death by having it become an escape from reality, and yet negotiating what her reality has become as well. This reflects the theme because it shows how these two people, Ruth and James McBride, both face these separate obstacles in life, one being the death of Hunter Jordan, and the other one being James McBride’s drug dependency, and yet, they are able to persevere through these events.
Later on in the book, when the family of Ruth McBride and her children move to Delaware, James McBride becomes increasingly involved with jazz. So much so that he was selected to travel to Europe with the American Youth Jazz Band. But since it wasn’t free, he had to pay for it. Fortunately, he was able to take a trip to Europe, sponsored by a white couple named the Dawsons. In exchange, he had to work on their estate on weekends and during the summer. He eventually was fired, but still able to go to Europe. One morning a couple of years later from that event, when he was Oberlin College, he received a letter that had Ms. Dawson say her husband had died suddenly of cancer. Later that day, James McBride was standing on the street with a group of black students, and one of them basically said that white people are all rich, and also have no problems. He completely agreed with the student, but felt terrible lying about that. This gives the entire event a sense of irony, because any comments that the black student made about white people being rich, therefore not having any problems whatsoever were be directly contradicted from the folded letter which held “the heartbroken words of an old white lady who had always gone out of her way to help me—and many others like me.” All of this defends the thesis, because this event demonstrates how anyone, no matter their class or race will face obstacles or difficulties in their lives, and they must be dealt with somehow. In this case, an old, sincere, and rich white woman suffered the loss of her husband suddenly. All the amount of money she is able to amass cannot help her, and the fact that she is white doesn’t mean her difficulties are alleviated.
James McBride has taught readers through The Color of Water that everyone faces obstacles in their lives, but they can all be overcome. Ruth and James McBride represent the epitome of this life lesson portrayed in these memoirs whether it’s through their reliance on religion, on how God can comfort them to the right path, or advice and support of family members and friends, or simply a will or motivation to move on through this hindrance faced. However, the author also demonstrates that no matter the factors, such as wealth or race, they are not any less susceptible to hardships faced in their lifetimes. In the end, The Color of Water provides readers with such an outlook that life is truly an adventure, but not without its shares of trials and tribulations that we all must find ways to cope with.
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