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Quest for Self Identity in 'The Color of Water'
Raised by his white mother, James often spent most of his childhood feeling confused about his identity due to the fact of his mother’s secretive previous. His mother, Ruth, chose to in no way speak about her childhood or her family, and as an alternative focused on advertising religion, education, and privacy to all her children. “She insisted on absolute privacy, superb school grades, and trusted no outsiders of either race. We had been instructed by no means to reveal specifics of our house life of any figures of authority: teachers, social workers, cops, storekeepers, or even friends” (McBride 27). Ruth’s teachings took a toll on James increasing up since he was taught to never open up to any individual. Trying to deal with his confusion, James resorts to generating a fictional version of himself, who he talks to by searching at himself in the mirror. He creates this imaginary version of himself because he desires to see what his life would be like if his life was easier. “To additional escape from painful reality, I created an imaginary world for myself. I’d lock myself in the bathroom and invest lengthy hours playing with him. He looked just like me. I’d stare at him… I would turn to leave, but when I wheeled around he was often there, waiting for me. I had an ache inside, a longing, but I didn’t know where it came from or why I had it. They boy in the mirror, he didn’t appear to have an ache. He was free of charge. I hated him” (90-91). James feels resentment towards “the boy in the mirror” because he wishes he could be like him, cost-free of any be concerned or confusion. The boy that James creates is what James wishes his life could be like: easy, instead of confusing.
During his teenage years, James becomes angry and begins acting out in order to cope with the pain of not understanding who he is. He chooses to go down the incorrect path turning to drugs and alcohol and ditching school to the point that he decides to become a dropout. “I was certainly hiding, and angry as properly, but I would never ever admit that to myself. The marvelous orchestrated chaos that Mommy has so painstakingly constructed to make her home run smoothly broke down” (140). Ruth eventually can't deal with it any longer, and sends him to remain with his sister, Jack, and her husband in Kentucky. In order to feel accepted by the older guys there, James starts to invest his totally free time at a local hangout spot identified as, “the Corner.” Spending time on the corner let James free of charge his thoughts of all his troubles, “I turned fifteen on the Corner but I could act like I was twenty-five, and no one cared. I could hide. No one particular knew me. No one knew my previous, my white mother, my dead father, practically nothing. It was perfect. My troubles seemed far, far away” (147). The Corner became James’ spot to get away from his identity concern. Although there, he felt like he fit in with everyone else which was the exact opposite of how he felt when he lived with his mother.
However, James lastly came to the realization that acceptance from the males on the Corner was not the acceptance he had been browsing for. Hanging out on the corner was only a temporary solution for a considerably larger dilemma. James’ mentor, and one particular of the guys that hung around the Corner, Chicken Man, assists James come to this realization. He tells James that he [James] is not as smart as he actually thinks he is, or else he wouldn’t be hanging around The Corner wasting time, “Is that how you want to end up, goin’ to jail? Because that is where you will finish up, doing time and hanging on this corner when you get out. Is that what you want for oneself? ‘Cause if you do, you can have it. Go on” (149-150). Hearing this, James tells Chicken Man that he is truly a quite sensible young man, to which Chicken Man replies, “Everybody on this corner is intelligent. You ain’t no smarter than anybody right here. If you so smart, why you got to come on this corner each summer? ‘Cause you flunkin’ college! You consider if you drop out of college somebody’s gonna beg you to go back? Hell no! They will not beg your black ass to go back. What makes you so particular that they’ll beg you! Who are you? You ain’t nobody! If you want to drop out of college and shoot men and women and hang on this corner all your life, go ahead. It’s your life!” (150). Hearing this, James first disagrees with Chicken Man’s statement, but soon discovers that he was proper, and moves back to live with his mother in New York, even even though that means going back to dealing with his identity crisis. As James begins becoming an adult, he begins to look into his mother’s past. He uncovers all the secrets that his mother had kept from him and his siblings for years. He finds out where Ruth spent most of her childhood years, and heads out there to uncover some answers. After interviewing a couple of individuals, James finds out that his mother was born a Jew and had a very difficult childhood simply because of her father, the nearby rabbi. Whilst James feels terrible that Ruth lived in such troubling circumstances, he feels like element of him is now filled since he finally knows exactly where his family members comes from. “The uncertainty that lived inside me started to dissipate the ache that the little boy who stared in the mirror felt was gone” (229). James does not feel like he did when he utilized to talk to the boy in the mirror. Now, he feels like that little, confused boy is gone since he knows the truth and has ultimately found his identity.
Despite the fact that it took years for James to find out where his household came from, he finally discovered all the secrets that Ruth had been keeping from him and his siblings. James would not have been comfy with himself if he did not uncover his household history like he did. He filled the void that he had been dealing with all through his complete life, and found who he was as a individual and his identity. James’ story proves that if a single desires to discover one’s self-identity, understanding of one’s origins is essential.
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