The Color of Water

The Color of Water Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After her abortion Ruth stays in New York. She lives with Bubeh and attends Girls Commercial High school. She realizes after a year that the academics are moving too quickly and she won’t graduate on time, so she returns to Suffolk for her senior year. As soon as she gets home she breaks up with Peter, because although she loves him, she understands how dangerous their relationship is for both of them. However, not long after, she’s upset to hear customers at her father’s shop gossiping about Peter—he’s gotten a girl pregnant and he’s going to marry her. Ruth is devastated. Peter’s new lover is black, and Ruth understands that she could never marry Peter, not in Virginia, not in 1937.
Ruth finally understands how dangerous her relationship with Peter is for him, and how impossible it always was in the long run. Still, although she understands that contemporary racism will keep them apart, she still loves him and is upset by the injustice of the situation. She’s especially upset when she discovers that Peter has been cheating on her with a black girl who he will easily be allowed to marry, and who will keep her child, whereas Ruth was forced to get a painful abortion to protect both of them.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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After finding out about Peter’s upcoming marriage, Ruth decides that once she graduates high school she’s leaving Suffolk forever. Her only reservation is leaving behind Mameh, who still cannot speak English and relies on Ruth to navigate the world. Still, Ruth sees her parents’ unhappy marriage and knows that if she stays she will be pressured into an arranged marriage as well. She explains she’d “rather die” than have an arranged marriage, and that by leaving home and abandoning her mother and sister she was, in a way, killing off her past self.
Ruth’s realization that interracial marriage will not be accepted in Virginia for a long time is enough to convince her to leave it forever. Having seen how unhappy her parents are, Ruth wants to marry for love, and she doesn’t’ want to be limited by the prejudices of the town she lives in, especially if those prejudices could potentially turn deadly.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Memory and Identity Theme Icon
As graduation approaches, Frances asks Ruth to walk with her. Ruth hasn’t shared any of the trouble in her life with Frances, but Frances is a loyal friend and Ruth wants to do this small thing for her. Ruth is nervous about the graduation because it ends with a ceremony in a Protestant Church. For this same reason Tateh at first refuses to give her the money for her cap and gown, but Mameh convinces him, and he pays on the condition that Ruth not go into the church. Tateh doesn’t care about Ruth’s graduation, but he is worried that she has no marriage prospects, and takes her on business outings so she can meet eligible Jewish men.
Because Ruth loves Frances as a family member, she will do anything for her. However, as a Jewish woman, she still has difficulty with the idea of going into a Christian church. Still, she sees love and friendship as things a person should make sacrifices for, and so commits to walking with Frances in their graduation, even though it makes her uncomfortable, because it will make Frances happy.
Themes
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Religion Theme Icon
On graduation day Ruth is nervous. Frances understands, and tells Ruth that if she can’t go into the church, Frances can graduate by herself. Ruth doesn’t want this to happen and so walks with Frances through the town to the church doors. As she approaches, Ruth steps out of line. She just cannot make herself go inside the church. Both Ruth and Frances cry as it becomes clear Ruth will not graduate with her friend, but Frances continues into the church. Ruth walks home alone, and the next day leaves for New York.
Ruth tries her hardest to go into the church with Frances, because she knows how important it is for her only friend, but her religion, the culture of the town, and the ingrained habits of her family hold her back. This is one of the last times Ruth will find herself pulled between her Judaism and her friendships.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
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