Critical Analysis Of Toni Morrison's Recitatif?

Good Essays
In the story “Recitatif”, Maggie is a kitchen woman and a target for abuse. Maggie attracts the ire of the residents on St. Bonny’s due to her being mute, bowlegged, and wearing a childish hat. With a passing glance, one would think that Maggie is simply a side character who plays very little role in the story as a whole, but this cannot be further from the truth. Maggie is absolutely central to the conflict of the story, and she has a profound effect on the actions of other characters within the story and the story’s theme. Maggie’s effect on the actions of Twyla and Roberta is shown in how both remember Maggie and the event in the orchard in completely different ways. The ways that they remember the event differ because they both remember …show more content…
Maggie is an enigma within the story; so much about her is completely forgotten save for the characteristics that lead her to be attacked. Roberta and Twyla cannot even recall what race she was they saw her only as a lowly kitchen woman. She seems to lack identity entirely with her being mute, she becomes a blank slate, a zero, and a passive victim for Twyla and Roberta to feel guilty about as they debate their memories (Shirley). Terry Otten, in his critical essay "Toni Morrison's 'Recitatif' of Race, Gender, and Myth.", states that Maggie simultaneously represents the lost innocence of Twyla and Roberta and the mothers who abandoned them both and the misplaced rage they show is at the failure of their own maternal figures. This conclusion is one I am inclined to agree with. In my opinion, Maggie serves as a release for Roberta and Twyla’s rage at their mothers (Otten). As Otten reiterates, Roberta and Twyla were both abandoned by their mothers so they released their rage upon Maggie. Otten continues to explain that Maggie represents the lost innocence of the two girls. Maggie in her childlike appearance and muteness appears completely innocent, which of course makes her the perfect target for abuse. She is the basis for many different abstract ideas and symbolizes many different important concepts, showing how she contributes to the …show more content…
Maggie’s role in the conflict of the story is one of a trigger. She serves as the source of basically all of the conflict within the story. She, in being attacked that day in the orchard behind St. Bonny’s, created a divide between the main characters. Maggie’s odd appearance led a group of older girls to attack her one day after she fell in the orchard. This event was witnessed by Twyla and Roberta, who were traumatized by it, and as a result they remember it in vastly different ways. Without this event I see little chance of the conflict between the Twyla and Roberta emerging at all. The strain in the relationship between the two came into existence only because they had differing accounts of what happened that day in the orchard. An idea of Otten that also supports this idea of Maggie as the divider is in his examination of Maggie’s ambiguous racial identity ("Toni Morrison's 'Recitatif' of Race, Gender, and Myth."). Maggie’s race being ambiguous contributes to the conflict between the two characters as it creates confusion between the two on her racial identity

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    Farrell 's work entitled “Fight vs. Flight: A Re-evaluation of Dee in Alice Walker 's Everyday Use”. Argues that the narration of Mother creates a biased and untrue look at the character of Dee. Farrell credits this bias to Mothers own jealousy of Dee. While mother is envious of Dee’s fighting spirit and confidence, she is extremely comfortable with Maggie 's passive and timid attitude.…

    • 1478 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The character who impacted me is Maggie and what reflects what made her who she is. Since, Maggie is a burnt victim, this highlights her personality as being afraid, embarrassed and a quiet person. First, Maggie is afraid of life; she is not prepare for the real world. There is a reason why she still lives with her Mama. The fact she has little education make her more afraid and a depended of her mother.…

    • 813 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Maggie was a disabled kitchen lady who always got picked on because of her appearance and because she was mute. Twyla showed sympathy when she quoted, “I think we were wrong. I think she could hear and didn’t let on. And it shames me even now to think there was somebody in there after all who heard us call her those names and couldn’t tell on us.” (Recitatif 202). To the contrary, Roberta was unsympathetic when she revealed much later that, “Listen to me.…

    • 836 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Nothing in Hester’s face had anything “for Love to dwell upon” (148) and her body was decaying in its loss of “Passion” (148) and “Affection” (148). The narrator elaborates on this idea when he explains that when a woman experiences such “peculiar severity” (148) it is simply fate to lose her “feminine character and person” (148). Both Hester’s shame and isolation forced “dark questions” (150) into her mind, such as the existence of “womanhood” (150). She…

    • 498 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Her mother’s lack of presence has clearly left a withstanding mark on Bonnie. Hurtful language is described as “words or expressions that are considered inappropriate, pretentious, damaging, mean, sarcastic or offensive to others” (cite)The first example of this is when Bonnie mistakes an old woman for her mother and aggressively tells her that she has “finally crawled out of her hole” and that she hopes that she dies a “slow and painful death”. While these hurtful statements are not intended for the poor woman that she mistakes for her mother, the usage of them illustrates the anger that Bonnie has towards Shirley for leaving her. She states the trauma of bouncing around from foster homes at the age of four and how her mother promised to come back but never did. In order to understand why her mother left her, Bonnie asks questions, but as an example of bad communication, Bonnie uses hurtful language in her questions such as “Why the hell did you do that?”, words that are considered inappropriate to say to your mother and generally aggressive.…

    • 1713 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Even the word “motherly” breath of suburb horrified her. Esther’s anger toward her mother is one of the key for her psychoses due to increase demands with her work. "the worst. She never scolded me, but kept begging me, with a sorrowful face, to tell her what she had done wrong" According to some of the passage from the novel, her mother is being dictatorial yet knowing nothing. Mrs Greenwood also presents a paragon for the difference between her generations from Esther.…

    • 1798 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    She loses her innocence by completely destroying Miss Lottie's marigold patch. After this event she then began to feel compassionate and cared for people. In “Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier, the experiences of Lizabeth support the theme that one cannot have both compassion and innocence. In many instances in the story Lizabeth would be disrespectful to different characters in during her innocence. Lizabeth had gotten incredibly angry and filled with rage that she…

    • 656 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Their opposing personalities and their different views on the world lead to their complicated and resentful relationship. Josie is struggling to understand who she is and where she belongs and Nona continues to title Josie as the ‘curse' of the family and aims to make Josie feel guilty about being alive. Reputation and the ‘family name' is a top priority for Nona and her actions reflect upon this but Josie does not understand. Nona. At the start of the film, Josie says that she's cursed.…

    • 1772 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    add quote form 238-240 That is why Greta biggest moment of alienation was when she found out about Toby and June. Even though she did not do the best job showing it, all she wanted was to be best friends with her sister again. At that moment, when she found the items, she realized she had been overlooked by June again and this made her very upset. This was shown in her total behavior and behavior towards June. She just stopped caring about…

    • 1079 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    While finally, Maggie is continually put down and hurt by her older sister to no avail, “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burned scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe,” (Pg. 1312). Clearly, Maggie has had to face for hardships than Dee, and has often been discouraged by Dee for various reasons. The idea of this unbalanced amount of power between the characters is definitely brought into play through the fight of the quilts. A major theme that the entire family often encounters is how they are not all equal to each other.…

    • 1363 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays