Analysis: The Color of Water by James McBride

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In The Color of Water James McBride devoted an entire chapter to his mother’s bicycle. An old-fashioned bicycle that was brought home by her late husband right before his death the bicycle was a coping instrument to his mother. She would ride the bicycle around town constantly, as if the constant motion would allow her to ignore what was happening in her life. The bicycle was “a huge old clunker, blue with white trim, with big fat tires and a battery-powered horn” (McBride 5). The eccentricity of the bicycle attracted a lot of attention to James’ mother, Ruth McBride Jordan. It was unlike from the many automobiles that raced across the streets and the many sleek new bikes and skateboards, but Ruth appeared to be unaware of her dissimilarity. Growing up Jewish in a small Southern town she had experienced the isolation of being shunned by a community. Later in her life she married a black man which further isolated her from the rest of her society. Her family declared Ruth to be dead and never saw her again. When she was living in New York Ruth was considered a sight to stare at as a white middle –aged lady with a group of mixed race kids following her on the subway and around the mostly black neighborhoods she lived in. Because of her experience with isolation she felt less of a desire to try and fit in for her whole life. It didn’t matter to her what others thought as in her eyes the only things that were important to her were her children and God, all else was irrelevant. With the death of her husband Ruth began to grieve him by pushing the world away although she was not aware of this. She would ride slowly as everyone would turn to stare at her as she kept moving in her antique bike. Her kids were ashamed of their mother riding the bike but she didn’t notice their concern. James thought that in a way the bicycle personified his mom. “Her oddness, her complete nonawareness of what the world thought of her, a nonchalance in the face of what I perceived to be...
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