The Color of Water

in chapter 5 and 6 compare the values of mommy parents with the values she teaches her own children.

The Color of Water: in chapter 5 and 6 compare the values of mommy parents with the values she teaches her own children.

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In this section, James explores the theme of "community" in conjunction with the theme of "household governance", contrasting his mother's upbringing with his own. Ruth grew up under the thumb of a tyrant who not only disrespected his wife, but abused his daughter. He also abused his son by treating him like a slave. The only member of the family who seemed not to suffer any direct abuse was the youngest sibling, Dee-Dee, though as a first-hand observer, it is unlikely that she escaped her childhood unscathed. At the same time, because she was not directly subject to her father's tyranny, Dee-Dee was unable to understand why Ruth - as well as Sam - needed to go away. Tateh dominated his family by the force of his own decisions, and decided that they would live in Suffolk, despite his wife's displeasure with the idea. He isolated his wife from her family, and the family was isolated in general because the Jewish community was small, and because the South discriminated against Jews, as well as blacks.

It is logical that Ruth would internalize her upbringing while outwardly - albeit most likely unconsciously - expressing the values she learned in her youth in her child-rearing techniques. She ruled over her own household as a kind of tyrant, but because her rule was tempered with love and she truly had in mind the best interests of each of her children, her strictness became a standard that the family sought to live up to. Even though she punished her son Billy for blanking during the Easter Sunday service, the lesson prompted Billy to learn to deploy his memory, something which would eventually lead him into medical school. The house was a dynamic mixture of activity, learning, religion, and mutual support, and the eldest brother's success inspired admiration from the rest of the children.