The Color of Water by James McBride

882 Words2 Pages

The novel, The Color of Water follows the author and narrator James McBride, and his mother Ruth’s life. It explores their childhood—when they were both embarrassed by their mothers—through the part of their lives where they began to accept themselves for who they are. Moreover, this memoir is quite distinctive as McBride cleverly parallels his story to his mother, Ruth’s story using dual narration. This technique further helps contribute to the theme of self-identity. Throughout the novel, McBride searches for identity and a sense of belonging that derives from his multiracial family. By using two different narrations, McBride gradually establishes his identity and by integrating both narratives at the end, McBride also shows that although both narrators at the beginning had different upbringings, in the end they came together, and understood 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 perhaps more importantly, understand the significance Ruth’s life has had on McBride. For example, McBride places the chapters “Shul” and “School” next to each other. 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 Ne...

... middle of paper ... sentences filled with joyous diction here.

Overall, the use dual narration in this novel is very effective as it conveys the thoughts of both narrators. Furthermore, altering chapters also acquire momentum for the text, as well as foreshadow the events of McBride's life through that of his mother, plus suggest the similarities between them. Subsequently, by highlighting similarities between two stories due to the different narration, the novel, The Color of Water achieves complexity and nuance. While the parallelism of several issues and the rhetorical strategies further contribute to the meaning of the novel’s message, when Ruth and James finally came to terms with their past and when Ruth was able to help James understand his origin.

Works Cited

McBride, James. The Color of Water: a Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. New York: Riverhead, 1996. Print.

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