The Color of Water

how does being caught between the worlds black and white affect james life

on chapter 20

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By chapter 20 James is taking stalk of his immediate and hereditary past. When James begins to describe his adult life, he illustrates how much of his indecision about his career path was rooted in a fundamental confusion about his personal identity. His visit to Suffolk marks the beginning of his writing project, along with the journey to discover the girl his mother had been growing up. The fact that Shilsky's store has been replaced by a McDonald's is ironic. When James revisited Suffolk and found the synagogue where his grandfather had been a rabbi, he mused about how black men are usually associated with violence, and not with synagogues. The ironic gesture deepens the reader's skepticism when it comes to the usual stereotypes of religion and race. James also highlights how the core of the family splintered by gesturing to the various directions in which the members of the family "flew" after Mameh's death.James's nocturnal experience, in which he walks to the river in the middle of the night and experiences the loneliness that he imagines his grandmother must have felt, is a poignant and deeply emotional moment in the book. It shows how, through the process of learning about his mother's history, he has become familiar with his grandmother's experience of isolation in America on a visceral, potent level.