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The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother Essay

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Updated: May 29th, 2021

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother is an autobiography by James McBride in which he describes the feelings and problems he had when tried to explore his identity and family background. A large part of the plot focuses on the life of the author’s mother, Ruth, who was a Jewish woman, married to a Black man. The autobiography raises such issues as race and religion, which are very personal. Therefore, there is a big chance that each reader can find their unique meanings in the book when comparing McBride’s experiences with their own. Individual factors such as race, religion, and family background that may affect one’s interpretation of The Color of Water will be discussed in this essay and showed which subjective responses to it they may have.

The first obvious factor is race. The fact that McBride and his mother looked different made him question his relation to Ruth and explore all the distinctions and similarities between them. Some readers may have the same mindset as the one the narrator in the book has and actively engage in the investigation of their racial identity. Others may simply accept race as a fact without trying to get deeper into the issue of race and ethnicity. The second factor affecting text interpretation and response is religion. It is mentioned in the book that Ruth was born in a Jewish family but became a Christian later in life and turned into an active participant in all church activities. Similar to race, religion, and spirituality constitute an essential part of every individual’s identity. Everybody may have their attitudes and views of religiousness, which may affect the perception of the plot. Thirdly, the factor of family background and relations may play a role in readers’ comprehension of the text as well: to understand the motivations and values the character has, one needs merely a slight psychological insight into his or her emotional ties with his/her family members, conflicts, and other family issues.

The factors mentioned above are associated with internal and subjective reader experiences. For example, it is possible to say that the type of readers who have a similar and complex racial identity and who live in the context of racial inequality can rather be more sensitive to the problems discussed by McBride than those who live in racially homogeneous environments and do not reflect on racial issues because they will have a closer association between their own emotions related to the racial identification and those described by the author. Additionally, when interpreting the text, readers may refer to their understanding of religion, their personal experiences related to it and then project them to Ruth’s involvement in the church. Such an interpretation through personal meaning may help understand the character and her choices better.

Along with referring to personal experiences, readers may also use psychological studies to understand the meanings represented in the text. Psychological knowledge can be especially useful in the analysis of personal relations and conflicts. For instance, McBride writes that Ruth’s father was an abusive man. The pain she came through at earlier stages in life made the character cut all the connections with her relatives afterward. Psychology suggests that childhood experiences and early emotional ties with family members can affect one’s identity, as well as social and psychological functioning across the lifespan. The reader can apply this knowledge to Ruth’s case to answer, for instance, how the relationships with the abusive father impacted her manner of interacting with her children.

Overall, the personal identity of the reader may play a significant role in the way h/she interprets the plot and responds to the events and characters described. Personal factors such as previous experiences, especially those related to religion, race, family relations, and similar matters, can define one’s ability to find links between the author’s initial meanings. They may both facilitate the understanding of the book and deviate readers from the original ideas.

References

McBride, J. (2006). The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (50684th ed.). Riverhead Books.

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IvyPanda. (2021, May 29). The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-color-of-water-a-black-mans-tribute-to-his-white-mother/

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"The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother." IvyPanda, 29 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/the-color-of-water-a-black-mans-tribute-to-his-white-mother/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother." May 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-color-of-water-a-black-mans-tribute-to-his-white-mother/.


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IvyPanda. "The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother." May 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-color-of-water-a-black-mans-tribute-to-his-white-mother/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother." May 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-color-of-water-a-black-mans-tribute-to-his-white-mother/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother'. 29 May.

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