The Color of Water

by James McBride

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Student Question

What are Ruth's strengths and weaknesses as a mother in The Color of Water?

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In Color of Water, Ruth's strengths are her commitment to education, her ability to accept racial diversity, her refusal to adhere to religious dogma, and her persistent individualism in the face of social taboo.  She was a woman of singularity and contradictions: a white woman married to a black man; a Jewish woman who went against its traditions; and a woman who raised twelve children in the Black inner-city by sending them to largely white schools.

Her weaknesses were largely internal: she became very depressed and stressed as a result of her family's strict limitations, society's refusal to accept her or her lifestyle, and her struggles to make ends meet.  Also, she suffered from trauma from her father's sexual abuse when she was young.  As a result, she rebelled entirely against her father (who would not even let her associate with Gentiles) by becoming pregnant and, later, marrying two.

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