The Boy in the Mirror

The boy in the mirror is a poetic metaphor created by James McBride in his outstanding work “The Color of Water”. This book is highly personal and it touches the most burning themes that worried the author, and the most essential of them is the problem of racial and ethnic identification. James McBride belongs to a family with a mixed heritage. His mother is Jewish and his father is African American. His mother denies her origin, her faith and her past and tries to find emotional consolation in the black community but this brings many hardships to her children. The family lives in a black neighborhood and James’ mother is the only white woman there, but her children “travel miles and miles” to attend Jewish school where they are treated as black sheep. The McBrides differ greatly from the rest of the children in their district and this difference lies not only in their “good hair” and light skin. This difference is much deeper because it touches their inner world and brings alienation. To solve the problem at least somehow James creates his own reality, he creates a friend who lives in the mirror and who is happy because he knows who he is and what community he belongs to.

“To further escape from reality I created an imaginary world for myself. I believed my true self was a boy who lived in the mirror” (McBride 69). This citation proves that the life of the boy was really unbearable and he saw no other way out than to escape into a world of dreams. In that imaginary world people were never hungry, they had their own beds and parents and children had the same color of their skin. From this description it gets clear that the main problems that worried the boy was poverty and being different from the others. One more point that is emphasized by the author is the fact that having ten siblings, a mother and a stepfather the boy is extremely lonely in his family and he has nobody he can talk to and open his heart. This idea is repeated later in the text: “Unlike my siblings, he had no opinion. He would listen to me”. It shows that the members of James’ family did not understand his searching for identifying his ethnic and racial identity. Instead of talking with the boy his brothers and sisters just laughed at him, his mother could not help James because she had lost her identity intentionally in order to forget about the miseries of her childhood.

At school things are no better, because being a clever child and having many talents, James and his siblings are discriminated: “We grew accustomed to being the only black or “Negro”, in school and were standout students, neat and well-mannered, despite the racist attitudes of many of our teachers.” (McBride 68). Despite this discrimination, the school is the crucial thing in James’ life. It creates a lot of problems, since it is obvious that …
Posted by: Otelia Barratt

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