Toni Morrison's Recitatif Themes

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Major Essay Two: Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” In Toni Morrison’s only short story “Recitatif”, Morrison writes about race, sympathy, and stereotype through two main characters Roberta and Twyla. There is another character Maggie, who is disabled, but she seems to be a go-between. Throughout the story, there are questions about the race of each character. One girl is black and one girl is white. The race of Maggie is undetermined. She is described as “sandy-colored” (Recitatif 202). Tones of racism are set throughout the story. Sometimes tempers flared and sometimes tears were shed. Nevertheless, Twyla and Roberta were placed in circumstances that showed commonalities as well as differences between the two. Twyla and Roberta had common circumstances. …show more content…
One difference was that Twyla showed sympathy for Maggie, while Roberta was unsympathetic. One day at St. Bonny’s as Twyla and Roberta were in the Orchard, Maggie fell down. All of the girls just laughed at her. In the story, Twyla quotes, “We should have helped her up, I know, but we were scared of those big girls with lipstick and eyebrow pencil.” (Recitatif 202). 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. I really did think she was black. I just remember her as old, so old. And you were right. We didn’t kick her. It was the gar girls. But, well, I wanted to. I really wanted them to hurt her.” (Recitatif 213). Roberta and Twyla had a racial divide when busing and integration became an issue in the town where they lived. Roberta did not want her child to be bused to what a neighborhood that she thought was bad. She quotes, “What do you mean, ‘What for?’ They want to take my kids and send them out of the neighborhood. They don’t want to go.” Twyla quotes, “So what if they go to another school? My boy’s …show more content…
Each of them had their own feelings of stereotypes, racism and sympathy. However, one can only assume that the parent who disapproved of busing was white because this has been a trend in the country. Also, one can assume that Roberta was prejudiced against black handicaps. “Listen to me. I really did think she was black.” (Recitatif 213). Morrison was good at keeping the truth hidden in this story. There was no reliable character in this work. The truth was never told. Themes of racism, sympathy and stereotypes jumped about from one scene to the next. Technically, Morrison could have just left Maggie out of the story. It is evident that both, Twyla and Roberta had more than enough issues of their own. Although, Maggie was only in bits and pieces of the story, we can still see that Morrison was trying to prove a point of some kind. It would appear to some, that she included Maggie to confuse her readers. One has to wonder, how she even relates to any of the other events that are taking place between the protagonists’ of the story. I concluded that, Morrison threw those extra scenes in because she wants to inform her readers of something. Maggie was a disabled individual. While the story never reveals the race of the characters, we do know for sure that part of the story did involve racial discrimination. Basically, Morrison informs us that racism was not the only issue but also, disabled individuals were

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