Toni Morrison’s Recitatif is a story of two young, racially separated girls that grow up in an orphanage together. Because the girls were young when they first met, they knew they were different from each other and they knew their moms wouldn’t approve but they didn’t let it affect their friendship. They became the best of friends and began to make a lot of memories at a very young age, most of them highly affected by their emotions. When it came time for the two to move on from the orphanage, also known as St. Bonny’s, they vowed to write everyday and stay in contact.
This story seems to be all about race but the author never tells us which girl is white or black. Morrison gives little hints but never a straight answer to the big question. Although Morrison never states the races of Twyla or Roberta, she does describe the two girls using stereotypes that society may apply to white people, black people, and sometimes even both. Before the end of the story the reader will have unconsciously decided a race for both Twyla and Roberta, but at the end of the story, Morrison makes her readers rethink their decisions about the girls races.
As the two grew older they began to occasionally bump into each other and they would make conversation but never the way it was when they were children. They would talk about how their lives were going and they would also recall events from the orphanage. Memories for 8 year olds aren’t quite sharp so I would imagine that memories from 20 and 30 years ago would be rather unclear too. One particular event of a mute woman named Maggie seemed to always become a topic of conversation. Both had an idea of what happened to Maggie but the actual story is rather cloudy. Maggie worked in the kitchen at St.
In an endeavor to define an ideal woman, we compare two Literature works which are the Kincaid’s short story “Girl” and Jane Martin’s play, “Rodeo”. Comparing these two works, we see two contrasting definitions of an ideal woman as they are brought out in different settings. In the Kincaid’s short story, “Girl”, we notice for instance that a girl should live a humble life that is respectful to all ...
Bonny’s and the girls think that she may have had her tongue cut out but Twyla just seems to think she was just born mute. All they really know is that she can’t talk, she may not be able to scream, that her legs are like “parenthesis” (Morrison 133) and that she is short. The problem is that Twyla and Roberta both have a different recollection over an incident that happened with Maggie. Roberta remembers Twyla kicking “a poor old black lady while she was down. ” (Morrison 144) Twyla, the narrator, remembers being very angry and wanting to attack Maggie but sees the older girls do it.
They could never really agree on Maggie’s race so this made the memory much more difficult to retrieve. As we reach the end of the story, we never find out what race either of the girls or Maggie are but instead of being worried about one race, we find ourselves being sympathetic for both girls. Theme, structure, time and period all work together to create the overall theme of this story, which I feel is superiority. We can tell that by the way the two girls acted and reacted in similar situations that Roberta seemed to have had a better home life than Twyla who felt that Thanksgiving was hot mashed potatoes and two weenies.
(Morrison 132) Throughout the years, the reader can see just how much of a difference there is between Roberta and Twyla. First, when their moms came to visit, Roberta’s mom brought “chicken legs and ham sandwiches and oranges and a whole box of chocolate-covered grahams” (Morrison 135-136) while Twyla and her mom “picked fur and cellophane grass off the mashed jelly beans and ate them. ” (Morrison 135) Roberta’s mom wouldn’t even shake Mary, Twyla’s mother’s, hand because of the prejudice she had against her race.
As the time grew it seems as though Roberta proceeded to take her mother’s place. When they met in the diner Roberta acts as if she is not at all interested in Twyla and her life. Again, Roberta seems superior when they cross paths at the store and Roberta seems to be of a higher class, with diamonds on her hands and a fancy dress. She even had her own car and driver, something that Twyla didn’t have. Roberta seemed well-off while Twyla just seemed content with her life at the moment. Also point of view seems very important in this story.
I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana to a Caucasian mother and a father who is unsure of his race because of his adoption. Living in a small town in Indiana, I was never exposed to any other race than white. I moved to Florida at a young age and quickly learned that there are many different races of people other than whites. Growing up I had a few acquaintances that were African American or Latino, ...
Because it is told from Twyla’s perspective, we instinctively become sympathetic to her situation. But the author challenges us by bringing in Roberta’s point of view and we are forced to consider both sides of the story. When they happened to run into to each other throughout their lives they always began to bring up Maggie. Both women thought of her as the race in which they were. So if Twyla is white, she felt Maggie was white and if Roberta was black, she thought Maggie was black. They both wanted to believe that whatever happened to Maggie was not an act of racism.
They related Maggie to their own race so if they really did hurt Maggie, it would reflect the other girl in a much harsher way because they weren’t the same color and it would be less hurtful for them. So it would ultimately seem like an act of racism. Because the truth is never really made clear to the reader, it is hard to identify with the characters. Without the racial conclusion given by the author, the readers are left with the abrupt ending. The story seems incomplete. We don’t know what race any of the characters are and we never
figure out the truth. Twyla and Roberta share an uncomfortable past. Roberta challenges Twyla to remember parts of her past that Twyla prefers to forget. This is where the conflict comes in. Twyla doesn’t want to believe that she hurt Maggie even if she didn’t but Twyla soon realizes that mute “Maggie was her dancing mother. Deaf, she thought, and dumb” and also like Roberta’s sick mother, both silent and absent. (Morrison 145) Maggie’s character works as a symbol for both Roberta and Twyla’s friendship and conflict and their differences and similarities.
As the audience gets further and further into the story, they find that important events did take place in the orchard, and that Maggie’s embarrassment, as well as their own, become a theme to the story. At their last encounter, at Howard Johnson’s diner, Roberta finally confesses about the two not kicking Maggie when she was down on the ground but Twyla admits that she wanted to because she connected Maggie to her mother. Twyla connects her subdue hostility toward her dancing mother with the pity she had for Maggie.
How many children's stories have you read that began with the words "once upon a time"? We know that this is fiction. What about fiction that sounds so real that you are not sure whether it is fiction or actual events that really happened. In the story Everyday Use, everything sounds so real that I actually thought of a family member that compared so closely with Dee. We can easily compare the ...
At the diner, Roberta confessed that she also wanted to kick Maggie. She also identifies her feelings of abandonment with Maggie, comparing her with her mother as well, even though Roberta’s mother is the opposite of Twyla’s mother, Mary. Both Twyla and Roberta identify themselves with Maggie. “I knew she wouldn’t scream, couldn’t—just like me—and I was glad about that,” (Morrison 146) Twyla says as she compares her own feelings of helplessness to Maggie’s. Mary and Roberta’s mom both are not in the lives of their daughters.
You can tell from the story that they both love their daughters very much but because Twyla’s mother “danced all night and Roberta’s was sick” (Morrison 131) they were both unable to take proper care of them. They both can relate to Maggie because her ailment stops her from being fully capable of taking care of herself like these mothers are not capable of taking care of their daughters. Morrison seems to do a wonderful job of creating such a simple and flat character like Maggie into a central symbol that defines this story and has the audience really contemplate the racial issue between Twyla and Roberta.
Through Maggie’s character, these two women begin to express their feelings of repression from Big Bozo, the orphanage caretaker, and from their own mothers who neglected and abandoned them both. By associating themselves with Maggie they understand themselves, each other, and their racial separation, better. But we still don’t know “what the hell happened to Maggie? ” (Morrison 147) We will never figure that out and we will never figure out how these two women would’ve turned out if they had known what happened to Maggie that day in the orchard.