Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Beth and Rachel’s Clothes Symbol Analysis

Beth and Rachel’s Clothes Symbol Icon

Beth and Rachel’s differing wardrobes represent not only the differences in their personalities, but also the way that their life experiences have led them to pursue their creativity in different ways. Their taste in clothes couldn’t be less alike: like a stereotypical city-dwelling writer, Rachel habitually wears all black, while Beth sticks to bright colors—preferably multiple at a time, and especially purple. She also insists on wearing shorts whenever it’s over 40°F outside. Early on in the book, Rachel decides that she admires Beth’s creativity with her wardrobe, because it shows that Beth has been able to develop her individuality and embrace her quirks. Rachel implicitly links this to the self-determination movement: Beth’s ability to wear whatever she wants is a small but clear sign that she is truly getting to live the life that she wants, rather than following someone else’s formula.

In contrast, Rachel dresses to fit in with the people around her, which requires her to hide her individuality. As a non-disabled person, she is expected to dress according to certain norms that Beth chooses not to follow, and as a writer, she is expected to blend into the scene she is researching, rather than calling too much attention to herself. She adds color to her life not by adorning herself, but rather by pursuing and making sense of other people’s stories. Thus, it’s no surprise that at the beginning of the book, Rachel feels that she lacks an energy that Beth possesses in abundance—but by the end, Beth’s color and vitality start to rub off on Rachel, too.

Beth and Rachel’s Clothes Quotes in Riding the Bus with My Sister

The Riding the Bus with My Sister quotes below all refer to the symbol of Beth and Rachel’s Clothes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grand Central Publishing edition of Riding the Bus with My Sister published in 2013.
1. January: The Journey Quotes

Beth and I, both in our late thirties, were born eleven months apart, but we are different in more than age. She owns a wardrobe of blazingly bright colors and can leap out of bed before dawn. She is also a woman with mental retardation.

I’ve come here to give Beth her holiday present: I’ve come to ride the buses.

Related Characters: Rachel Simon (speaker), Beth
Related Symbols: Beth and Rachel’s Clothes
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Beth and Rachel’s Clothes Symbol Timeline in Riding the Bus with My Sister

The timeline below shows where the symbol Beth and Rachel’s Clothes appears in Riding the Bus with My Sister. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. January: The Journey
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...exhausted and wears all black, while Beth is full of energy and wears a brightly-colored T-shirt and shorts . They’re less than a year apart in age, but their lives couldn’t be more... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Rachel attends Beth’s meeting in January. As usual, Beth is dressed in bright colors , while Rachel wears all black. Rachel realizes that she has spent her own life... (full context)
3. February: Hitting the Road
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Rachel dresses in black , as usual, and fills her coat pockets with gear, ranging from tea bags to... (full context)
23. August: Be Not Afraid
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
...off from work, she reluctantly agreed to go. At first, she and Beth refused to wear bathing suits , but Jacob eventually convinced them. Beth plays catch with Jacob’s wife, Carol, and their... (full context)