top-rated free essay

Reflection on Toni Morrison's short story, "Recitatif"

By hbauer6 Sep 26, 2014 684 Words
Heather Bauer
Reader’s Response

As humans, we are naturally inclined- for a multitude of reasons- to create stereotypes about people who are different than us. Whether a stereotype is construed based on someone’s race, sexuality, socioeconomic class, etc., it is always demeaning because it is an unfair judgment of one’s personality that hinders the formation of positive relationships. In Toni Morrison’s short story Recitatif, many stereotypes are presented, but issues regarding racism are most dominant and cause conflict among the main characters.

The two main characters in Morrison’s story, named Roberta and Twyla, are immediately presented as being racially different- meaning one girl is white and one is black. The curious aspect of Recitatif is that Morrison never unveils which girl is of which race. A reoccurring theme in the work is the two girls defending their own races and experiencing racism, but the reader is never aware either girl’s racial/ethnic origin. This mystery is significant to the story’s overall message because neither white nor black character is portrayed as “dominant”. Instead, Morrison provides this work with a sense of racial ambiguity, which argues that racial distinctions are petty and lead to stereotypes, and therefore should not be a factor in her work. Because the readers are never aware of which main character is white and which is black, they are forced to focus on the overall tensions between races and are never inclined to feel biased towards one character based on the color of their skin.

The differences in race are developed in Recitatif via Roberta and Twyla defining their separate racial origins in opposition to the other girl’s race. In other words, the girls define themselves by highlighting the many ways in which they are different from one another. In this sense, neither girl is seen as “good” or “bad”- only distinctive and unique. One portrayal of the girls’ diverse personas is presented after years of them being apart, “We passed like strangers. A black girl and a white girl meeting in a Howard Johnson’s on the road and having nothing to say. One in a blue and white triangle waitress hat- the other on the way to see Hendrix” (1003). The different ways in which the girls live and behave is meant to call attention to their different backgrounds. One cannot say that race is the only factor that sets the two girls apart, but it is the most significant. Morrison chooses to emphasize the girls’ races as their most distinctive qualities, and makes it seem like the underlying reason for all of their other differences. In other words, because the girls differ in race, they consequentially dress and behave differently. This idea that race causes numerous dissimilarities in character- no matter how small- is Morrison’s way of pointing out the ridiculous stigma that society holds regarding stereotypes of white and black people. One other instance when Roberta and Twyla are described as being unalike because of their separate races occurs as soon as the short story even begins, “One of the things she said is that they never washed their hair and they smelled funny. Roberta sure did. Smell funny, I mean” (996). Not only are the girls portrayed as having different outward appearances, they also are described as having different mental capacities, “We were eight years old and got F’s all the time. Me because I couldn’t remember what I read or what the teacher said. And Roberta because she couldn’t read at all and didn’t even listen to the teacher” (996). Morrison’s inclusion of the girls’ variances in mental processes further develops the story’s argument that society expects two girls of different races to be unequally intelligent. Although the reader does not know which race is supposed to be “smarter”, Morrison acknowledges a common societal expectation that one race must be superior to another. Overall, Recitatif addresses the topic of stereotypes associated with race by proving that humanity expects two girls of different racial origins to be different from one another, yet Morrison challenges her readers by never showing favoritism for one particular race.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Role and Identity in Toni Morrison's, Recitatif

    ...Mackenzie Thurmond Dr. Rob. Bleil World Literature II April 25, 2014 Role and Identity “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” (Morrison). In reading Toni Morrison’s short story “Recitatif,” there are several things that Morrison does for her readers that allow u...

    Read More
  • Recitatif - Toni Morrison

    ... 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 beg...

    Read More
  • Short Story Reflection

    ...Short Story Reflection Jennifer ENG125:Intro to Literature Instructor McGrath 11/28/2011 All stories come together by a solid idea. The idea behind a story is known as a theme. When looking at a theme, you must go beyond the title and critically think to acknowledge key terms and symbols within the narrative you are reading. ...

    Read More
  • Reflection of Short Story Mercy

    ...Pinckney Benedict’s 2008 short story “Mercy,” the narrator and his father both take pride in their family’s ranch. The narrator works hard for his father each day, taking breaks only to sneak treats to the miniature horses being kept on the neighbor’s ranch nearby. The narrator’s father; however, does not show the same compassion for...

    Read More
  • Relationship Between Mothers and Daughters in Toni Morrison's Recitatif

    ...Relationship between mothers and daughters in Toni Morrison's “Recitatif“ Karolin Lattisch Brinkstraße 3 17489 Greifswald Lehramt Gym Eng/ Ru 128126 6th semester Contents 1. Introduction 1 2 4 5 7 10 11 13 14 1.1 The author – Toni Morrison 2. 3. Introducing “Recitatif“ Relationship between mother...

    Read More
  • Toni Morrison's Recitatif: Twyla and Roberta's Innocence and Friendship

    ...Recitatif Isn't it amazing how children seem to be able to see the best in everything? In the short story Recitatif by Toni Morrison, The two main characters become friends as children and it seems that its almost everlasting due to the innocent nature of them meeting. When one is in their adolescent ages it seems that its easier to not .......

    Read More
  • Recitatif

    ...Recitatif by Toni Morrison is a story about two girls, Twyla and Roberta, who initially meet in home for children called St. Bonaventure, St. Bonny for short. At their initial meeting there are feelings of mistrust from both sides, but eventually come to bond with each other. We find out early that one is black and one is white but which is whic...

    Read More
  • Short Story

    ...Unwelcome Passenger The man looked familiar, and immediately I felt my pulse quicken. He wore oil-stained jeans and a torn leather vest, but no shirt. Straight black hair hung nearly to his waist. A snake tattoo circled his forearm. Mid-thirties, I guessed. I didn't realize I was staring so hard until he scowled and muttered, "Do I know y...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.