The Color of Water

by James McBride

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Why did Ruth Mc Bride refuse to reveal her past and why? no

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The key to Ruth's concealment of her past is in the first chapter, where she says, "Rachel Shilsky is dead as far as I'm concerned. She had to die in order for me, the rest of me,to live" (McBride, 2).  "Rachel" was her name in her previous life, as a daughter of a Jewish immigrant family.  Her life was very difficult and she received no love or affection, only harsh criticism. When she found a new and accepting community among African-Americans and also found love, she had to cut herself off from her old life to move on. By not speaking about her previous life, she believed that she could leave all her figurative "baggage" behind. Additionally, in those days (and sometimes today), people who left Judaism were considered dead to their parents and community. So, from both perspectives, Ruth's and her family's, the old "Rachel" was dead and not to be spoken about. Whether this is a successful strategy for anyone is questionable, but Ruth did the best she could at the time and certainly raised her family successfully!

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