The character of Peter in The Color of Water from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

The Color of Water

Ruth’s first love, a young black man who Ruth met in her father’s store. It’s unclear if Peter was truly as kind and loving as Ruth remembers him, or if Ruth was so starved for affection that she saw him as perfect. Ruth eventually became pregnant by Peter, and traveled to New York for an abortion. When she returned, she was upset to learn that he’d gotten another girl pregnant, and was planning on marrying her.

Peter Quotes in The Color of Water

The The Color of Water quotes below are all either spoken by Peter or refer to Peter. 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:
Race and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of The Color of Water published in 2006.
Chapter 11 Quotes

You know, my whole life changed after I fell in love. It was like the sun started shining on me for the first time, and for the first time in my life I began to smile. I was loved, I was loved, and I didn’t care what anyone thought. I wasn’t worried about getting caught, but I did notice that Peter’s friends were terrified of me; they stayed clear anytime I came near them. They’d walk away from me if they saw me walking down the road coming toward them, and if they came into the store, they wouldn’t even look at me. That started to worry me a little but I didn’t worry much. Then after a while, my period was late. By a week.

Related Characters: Ruth McBride-Jordan (speaker), Peter
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
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You know, the thing was, I was supposed to be white and “number one,” too. That was a big thing in the South. You’re white, and even if you’re a Jew, since you’re white you’re better than a so-called colored. Well, I didn’t feel number one with nobody but him, and I didn’t give a hoot that he was black. He was kind! And good! I knew that! And I wanted to tell folks that, I wanted to shout out, “Hey y’all, it really doesn’t matter!” I actually believed folks would accept that, that they’d see what a good person he was and maybe accept us, and I went through a few days of thinking this, after which I told him one night, “Let’s run off to the country and get married,” and he said, “No way. I don’t know where that’s been done before, white and black marrying in Virginia. They will surely hang me.”

Related Characters: Ruth McBride-Jordan (speaker), Peter
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 15 Quotes

“They’re making me marry her,” he said. “My folks are making me.”
“Did you get her pregnant?”
“Yeah.”
Oh, that messed me up. I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore and walked back through the black neighborhood, into the store, and went upstairs and cried my heart out, because I still loved him. I went through this entire ordeal and here he was getting busy with somebody else. The fact that he was black and the girl he was marrying was black—well, that hurt me even more. If the world were fair, I suppose I would have married him, but there was no way that could happen in Virginia. Not in 1937.
I made up my mind then that I was going to leave Suffolk for good.

Related Characters: Ruth McBride-Jordan (speaker), Peter
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Peter Character Timeline in The Color of Water

The timeline below shows where the character Peter appears in The Color of Water. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11: Boys
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Ruth meets her first boyfriend, Peter, in her father’s shop. They flirt whenever he comes in to buy something, and eventually... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Falling in love changes Ruth’s life. In addition to loving Peter, she feels loved for the first time. She isn’t worried about people finding out about... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...them socially above the black residents of Suffolk. However, Ruth only feels “number one” with Peter. She tries to convince Peter to elope, but he refuses, worried that he’ll be killed.... (full context)
Chapter 15: Graduation
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Otherness and Belonging Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Memory and Identity Theme Icon
After finding out about Peter’s upcoming marriage, Ruth decides that once she graduates high school she’s leaving Suffolk forever. Her... (full context)