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Recitatif Analysis Essay


Brozyna 2 leaving the orphanage. Twyla is working as a waitress at a restaurant when one day, she notices Roberta enter with two guys. She vividly describes

Roberta‟s physical appearance, stating that “[s]he made the big girls look like nuns” (Morrison 4).

 This is in reference to the older girls that  bullied Mag

gie, Roberta and Twyla at the orphanage. Here Twyla indicates that Roberta‟s

revealing selection of clothing makes a bold statement. In the diner scene, Twyla provides a

connection between herself and Maggie as she compares herself to Roberta‟s figure.

 In the  beginning of the story, Maggie is described as having legs like parentheses.

“…I was standing

there with my knees showing out from under that uniform. Without looking I could see the blue and white triangle on my head, my hair shapeless in a net, my a

nkles thick in white oxfords”

(Morrison 4). Twyla exposes a sense of insecurity about herself, which directly ties back to her  previous comments on Ma

ggie‟s figure. Twyla‟s insecure thoughts

about being an outsider are  portrayed through

Maggie‟s physical


Along with physical imperfections, Maggie is also associated with Twyla‟s thoughts

 of abandonment and disappointment. Alone and in an orphanage, Twyla feels helpless with having a mother that leaves her to go dancing every evening. Twyla creates a parallel in the story

 between her experiences with her mother and Maggie. Maggie‟s fall in the beginning is where

this connection begins. The critic notes that Twyla associates her

traumatic memory of Maggie‟s fall with her own mother‟s visit

, in which she humiliates Twyla with her odd sense of style and

inappropriate etiquette. “Twyla depicts her mother as a „fallen woman,‟ one who abandons her daughter” (Stanley 76). Her memory of Maggie‟s fall intertwines with her memory of her failing

mother. Both experiences are sites of suffering and shame. What can also be concluded from

Twyla‟s lack of contact with her mother is that she feels a sense of incompleteness in their

relationship. Maggie is both mentally and physically incomplete due to her disabled state as

Recitatif Toni Morrison Analysis

African American literature has undergone a long and thorny path from the pre-colonial period to the present day and has been significantly influenced by socio-historical development and technological progress. But one component remains unchanged. It is a person with all virtues and disabilities, traditions and future orientation. The last century was marked by the emergence of new novelists, as well as acknowledged dark-skinned romantics. Toni Morrison was one of them.

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Women's African-American literature of the 70's and 80's was not concerned with social protest; on the contrary, the first gestures of American Africans in culture were not an expression of protest, but of social prayer. Children and grandchildren of slaves eradicated racism. They did not pray, but they required. The feminine literature of the 70's addressed not only to the black audience and worked within the framework of black culture and black identity, but first of all it was concentrated on its own, that is, on the bitter, and sometimes openly, pernicious relations of a woman and a man, on the marginal position of women in the patriarchal society. It applied to feminism. It was a guarantee of the development of the general process of democratization.

Tony Morrison was the first African-American who received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her works are translated into many languages: Italian, French, Norwegian, Japanese, Russian and others; the creativity and biography of the writer were the subject of several monographs and dissertations. She has long been recognized as the classic of American literature. Her works are deep in content; they address the serious problems of the African American population of the United States. The works of the writer are not easy to read, but they are popular all over the world.

Tony Morrison enriched America's culture with his creative contribution by writing an African-American literary paradigm into the American literary canon, highlighting the importance of African American history in shaping the world outlook of the United States. Thanks to his prose, which is based on the image of national African folklore, it changes the existing American literary canons, depicting the destructive influence of inter-racial contradictions, the opposition of the "white" and "other", the attempts of the "white" to dominate and suppress the national consciousness of "other" nationalities. These urgent topics brought the international recognition of the writer.

Recitatif is one of her strong stories. This is the story of two eight-year-old girls who meet in a shelter for children who do not have parents. Their names are Twyla and Roberta. They did not like each other at first sight, but they had no choice but to stick together. It is possible to speculate about the fate of their parents. The mother of Roberta is sick, and the mother of Twyla leads a loose life, but when Twyla speaks about it, she suddenly finds Roberta understanding. But the most important difference is that they belong to different races. This story is not about friendship, and not even about racial struggle, although there are the main elements of the story, it is a story about the life path, about universal values, about the understanding of the right and wrong, about which no one could tell the girls. The story goes on for many years when Twyla and Roberta meet again. In some things they are offended at each other, somewhere they do not understand each other, and their lives also developed in different ways. In the orphanage, they unite to be able to protect themselves from older girls. The key character in this time period is Maggie. Maggie was black; she was an old cook. Once, Twyla kicks Maggie and does not help her to get up. After more than twenty years, girls accidentally meet at a rally against racial discrimination, and Roberta recalls this case. Twyla responds ambiguously. She either does not remember the color of Maggie's skin, or she never considered her black, or it was a common manifestation of human cruelty. However, at the end of the story, she confesses that she remembers that Maggie was an African American, and deep down she really wanted to hurt her, but today she is ashamed of it. Nevertheless, the story ends with a rhetorical question. We can not judge from her words about what is the truth, and what is not.

What is most remarkable is that the reader can not understand until the end of the story which of the girls is white, and which is an African-American. This gives the story even more ambiguity. Can we talk about the classical racial discrimination that occurs towards black people, or should we talk about the prejudices of one person against another in general?

In addition to racial injustice, the author raises the problem of children growing up without the care of their parents. Most likely, this fact also had an impact on the formation of the views of each of the girls. Were they cruel from birth or did this life in the orphanage make them so?

The name Recitatif is also not accidental. This name symbolizes the flow of time; girls meet after certain time intervals. This allows the reader to learn about how their life develops and how their views change over a certain period of time. Secondly, during the reading, it seems that the story itself is written in a recitative. All the sentences are short, clear; each of the heroines speaks plain text and worldly language. The story also contains short but informative dialogues.

This short story is worthy of reading since it raises such an eternal topics as racial prejudices, human injustice and cruelty, remorse for one’s actions, the problem of abandoned children, their rigidity and their future destiny.

This is a strong message to the modern reader. It makes us think about the true nature of human relationships and about the nature of a person in general, about friendship, which is more like a nonaggression pact and the equality of people on the planet.

Works Cited

  • BlackNet Art. 29. October 2007
  •” Definition of Recitative.” 31 October 2007
  • Morisson, Toni, “Recitatif.” 29 October 2007