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The Color Of Water
I. Identify the following items and explain the significance “The Color of Water" -As James asked his mother Ruth what color was God, she said that God is the color of water. What she means is that God is universal and has no color and loves everyone. "God made me" -When James and his other siblings doubt and question their mother where she came from she would say, “God made me,” as her answer. “Tateh” -Tateh means “father” in Yiddish. “Sitting Shiva” -Sitting Shiva is a Jewish ceremony where the family sits for a week morning the death of someone. When Ruth ran away from the family and married a black man, her family sat Shiva because she was dead to them. “Helen” -Helen is 15 years old and is the daughter of Ruth and older sister of James. She ran away from home after getting in trouble and disobeying her mother. She came back home to the family only after a month away. “Riding a bicycle” -Riding a bicycle was a way for Ruth to let go of the grief that she felt after her husband died. She rode the bike everywhere instead of riding the car. “Chicken Man” -Chicken man was a friend of James’ stepsister. He told James to stay on the right path and to stay out of trouble. “Peter” -Peter was Ruth’s first boyfriend. Peter being a black man and Ruth being a white women and during the time of segregation they kept their relationship secret so that they would be judge and tormented by others. Ruth gotten pregnant by Peter and he wanted nothing to do with her after and the only option she had was abortion. "Mameh was his meal ticket to America" -Mameh means “mother” in Yiddish and Ruth’s mom was her father’s way to America. Ruth’s father wanted to escape Europe because of the holocaust and Ruth’s mother had a relative in America. He married her just to escape not out of love and once he got to America, he saw no need of her anymore. "Contradiction lived and survived in its essence" -Ruth believed in order to live you need discipline, guild lines, and rules. She was
hypocritical at times though. For example, she wanted the best education for her children and sends them to a white school when at the time there were tension between blacks and whites. "I was starving in another way" -Ruth was starving for love and affection from her Jewish family but she was always neglected because of the strict religious rules that she despised. "Don't read that book anymore" -James made his mother enraged when he questioned her, “What is a tragic mulatto?” Ruth then asked him where did he read that and he said, “From a book.” Her response to that was, “Don’t read that book anymore” "A Jew Discovered" -James did some research on his bloodline and in 1992; he was in Suffolk looking at a synagogue. Later he realizes his correlation with Judaism and the Shisky family. "The Glory Years" -“The Glory Years” were the year in which Ruth converted to Christianity and joined the church in Harlem that was ran by Reverend Brown. Denis taught Ruth and showed her the life and family she always desired. II. Write detailed answer for each of the following questions 1. Why is Ruth "dead"? She is dead to her family because she was ran away from them in order to pursue the life she wanted. Her family “sat Shiva” and said “kaddish” meaning she banished and dead. 2. Describe the circumstances surrounding James' first time alone with his mother. Why was this a sweet memory for him? -The first time James was alone with his mother was the first day of school, when she walked him to the bus stop. It was a sweet memory for James because it was unusual of her to spend time with her children. 3. What legal paper did Ruth keep on her person for over 25 years? -The legal paper that Ruth hid in her shoebox for 25 years was the papers that said when she arrived to America. She came to America on August 23, 1923 on the Austergeist. 4. Consider the following simile: "There was something inside me, an ache I had, like a constant itch that got bigger and bigger as I grew". What is being compared? To what is he referring? -The two things that are being compared are growing and curiosity. He is referring to as he got older he wanted to know more about his mother and her past so that he can know his roots. 5. Why did James say that he feared black power? James feared black power because his mother was a white women living in a black
populated city and he thought, "black power would be the end of his mother". 6. What did Ruth say she was "real conscious of"? Ruth said, “I was real conscious of that, being Jewish and having a handicapped mother. I was ashamed of my mother, but see, love didn't come naturally to me until I became a Christian.” 7. When Ruth was a young girl she had a hobby. What was it and why did she love it? -As a young girl, Ruth’s hobby was running. She loved it because she was able to get away from home and it felt as if she had some freedom and could escape from reality. 8. What was James' perception of his mother's tears? -James’ perception of his mother’s tears was that he was able to commiserate with his mother as she cried. He thought that she had an emotional breakdown from trying to hold in all her pain that she carried throughout the years. 9. Why did Mameh tell the sailors "No thank you"? -Mameh told the sailors, “no thank you” because she didn’t comprehend what they were saying and since she was new to the country she also feared what would happen to her and her children. 10. What was ironic about Tateh's worrying about "black folks...stealing from him"? -Tateh worried about “black folks…. stealing from him” because he though if they found out that he was charging an inequitable price for the goods he sold, they would want revenge. 11. Explain the relation between the "little kids" and the "big kids". -The relationship between the “little kids” and the “bid kids” was that James and his four younger siblings would obey the “big kids” which were the older ones in the house. When their mother wasn’t home, the “big kids” had control of the house and had more privileges and responsibility. 12. Ruth made a statement about "a different kind of poor". To what is she referring? Ruth was referring to her family’s love and affection for one another. Her family didn’t show much if any emotion whatsoever to one another. 13. How did Ruth show her appreciation for or benefit from her Jewish background? Ruth showed her appreciation or benefit from her Jewish background because it was the foundation of her morals and what she wanted to show and teach her kids. Jews were well mannered and cared deeply about education and Ruth’s values showed in her kid as she put each of them through college. 14. What did Mameh return to Ruth? What did it mean for her to do so? Mameh returned Ruth’s bracelet, which meant that she knew about Ruth’s boyfriend that was kept secret. 15. Why was James "never quite aware of the concept of father"? When did he become
aware? James’ father died shortly after he was born and James was raised by his mother and didn’t have a father figure in his life. When Mr. Hunter entered James’s life, he began to understand the concept of father 16. How did Aunt Betts help Ruth? Aunt Betts helped Ruth by making a call to a doctor in order for Ruth to have an abortion. Aunt Betts also paid the bill for Ruth. 17. Who is James sent to live with during the summer? Why? James was sent to live with his half sisters Jack and Richard during the summer. It was punishment for James because he was misbehaving at home. 18. Why didn't Ruth participate in her graduation? She didn’t participate in her graduation because she felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to go to another church. 19. Who is Rocky? How did he help Ruth? Rocky was a pimp that lived in Harlem and he helped Ruth her own apartment but he wanted her to be a prostitute and work for him. 20. Why does Ruth want to leave Wilmington? Ruth wanted to leave Wilmington due to all the racism and she feared that she would be harmed. 21. Explain why Ruth was "too embarrassed" to call her mother on the phone. Ruth was too embarrassed to call her mother on the phone because she felt ashamed for abandoning her mother when she needed her. 22. Why did racism smash James "across the face like a bottle"? Racism smash James “across the face like a bottle” because he has never experience that the hated that other gave to him. He was brought up in a non- racist setting and once he left the house things changed. 23. Who is Bubeh? What did the letter that Ruth received reveal about Bubeh? Bubeh is Ruth’s grandmother. The letter that Ruth received revealed that Bubeh past away. 24. Where did James' "long search" for the Shilsky family end? James’ “long search” about the Shisky family came to an end as he revisited his mother’s old synagogue in Suffolk. He learn about his mother’s roots and all that she went through. 25. How did Dennis expand Ruth's world? Dennis expanded Ruth’s world by introducing her to the Christian faith. Dennis welcomed her to the church and made her feel as if she was welcomed. Ruth was beginning to live a better life thanks to him.
26. As Ruth considers her morality, where does she want to be buried? Ruth’s children questioned her where does she want to be buried. They made several suggestions but as time flew by that afternoon, Ruth said that she didn’t care where she would be buried.
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