The Color of Water

by James McBride

Start Free Trial

Who is Rocky in "The Color of Water" and what did he train Ruth for?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Color of Water, Rocky is the manager of the Hi Hat Barbershop. He is described as a heavy-set, light-skinned man in his fifties. The author also describes Rocky as being a well-dressed man.

In the book, we learn that Rocky hired Ruth after she entered the barbershop to apply for a manicurist position. For Ruth's part, she was pleased that the manicurist job paid her fifteen dollars a week. She did notice, however, that many entertainers and musicians patronized the Hi Hat Barbershop on a regular basis. These men warned Rocky that he would get into trouble for hiring an under-aged girl (Ruth).

Their warning was ominous in more ways than one. The truth is that Rocky was grooming Ruth to be a prostitute. He began his grooming almost immediately by taking Ruth to the movies and restaurants. Eventually, Rocky rented a room for Ruth and casually mentioned that he would "teach" her about the women "standing around in the street." These women were prostitutes, and Rocky was a pimp who profited off of their earnings.

Despite her youth, Ruth didn't harbor any apprehensions about the "work" Rocky's "girls" engaged in. Her goal was to make enough money to live fashionably. In the end, Ruth never became one of Rocky's prostitutes. Dennis (her fiance at the time) warned her about Rocky's true intentions.

As a result of Dennis' words, Ruth returned to Bubeh, her maternal grandmother who lived in the Bronx. For his part, Rocky tried to win Ruth back; he called her, sent flowers, and even showed up at Bubeh's apartment. Despite his overtures, Ruth ignored him. After a while, Rocky stopped calling altogether, and Ruth never heard from him again.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ruth started working as a manicurist at Rocky's barbershop, but he exposed her to life in nightclubs and to prostitutes. He intended to make Ruth into a prostitute. Fortunately, Ruth went to Dennis McBride to find out news of her family. He told her that Rocky was really a pimp who wanted to turn her into a prostitute. Dennis didn't judge Ruth for her relationship with Rocky, but he did show his disappointment. Ruth was impressed by Dennis" feelings and went back to live with her grandmother.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial