Black People and Story

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Jennifer Mancillas

Jennifer Bradford

English 1102

28, February 2013

What is the relevance of the title in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif?”

“Recitatif” is a short story written by Toni Morrison and first published in the anthropology “Confirmation: An Anthropology of American Women” in 1983. The author creates a pioneering story about the lives of two young girls, Roberta and Twyla, living in an orphanage during a period of racial inequality. Both girls had been taken away from their mothers, one for illness and one for indiscretion. What makes this story unique is that, while the characters are clearly separated by class, neither is affirmed as African American or Caucasian. In order to address the essential social issue of that time, Toni Morrison presents five sections that span many years; the author provides a clear insight of inequality between white and black people. Moreover, with the publication of “Recitatif”, “Morrison raised issues engaging middle-class black women whose education and personal achievements create tensions within and outside of the black community” (Fultz).

A considerable aspect of this story is the title of the work. “Recitаtif” is a derivation of the word “recitative” which may be defined as a spoken singing style used in opera and oratories. A now-obsolete meaning is the rhythm peculiar to any language; furthermore, this word uses the root “recite” which also has special meaning. To recite, or to tell from memory, exemplifies that the story written by Toni Morrison was from a series of memories. Both of these definitions suggest the episodic nature of this story (Kusumoto).

The plot is the key to understanding the meaning of the title. There are five encounters that show what occurs when two people have contradictory memories about the same event. For example, when Twyla realizes that she and Roberta have completely different memories of a significant event, she asks, “I wouldn’t...
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