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Analysis Of Recitatif
In Recitatif, by Toni Morrison, the racial identity of Roberta and Twyla is an ambiguous part of the story. From the outset, it is apparent that Roberta and Twyla are of different races. They were both stuck in a strange place with a girl from a whole other race. Throughout the story, each character is developed more and more, though it does not necessarily lead to a conclusion as to what race each girl is. Many of the traits could be indicative of either a black or white girl. More so, it confuses the issue even more by leading the reader to decide one way and change his/her mind a minute later. However, in the scheme of this story, I think that is just the point.

In the beginning, my first initial reactions were that Roberta was the black girl, while Twyla was the white girl. During the time period in the beginning of the story, a negative attitude was taken toward black people. It seems as though Twyla s mom had warned her about the black people who never wash their hair and they smelled funny. Roberta sure did. Smell funny. However, this is not enough evidence to decide one way or the other. Twyla also tells the Big Bozo, My mother won t like you putting me here. A white mother did not want her white daughter to be roomed with a black girl. Furthermore, Roberta does not seem to understand this. Roberta must have thought [Twyla means] that [her] mother would be mad about [her] being put in a shelter. Not about rooming with her, because as soon as Bozo [leaves] she [comes] over to [her] and [says,] Is your mother sick too? In my interpretation of how things were in those times, a white person may be offended to be paired with a black person, while the black person may not care. In this case, Twyla shows concern for being put into the same room as Roberta, while Roberta does not seem to notice any animosity.

Another hint of each girls race is the depiction of each of their mothers. Twyla s mom, Mary, wore tight green slacks and a ratty fur jacket with the pocket linings so ripped she had to pull to get her hands out of them. Roberta s mom was quite different. She was big. Bigger than any man and on her chest was the biggest cross [that Twyla had] ever seen and in the crook of her arm was the biggest Bible ever made. Twyla s mom did not bring any food for the lunch so they had to eat the candy that Tywla had in her basket. Roberta s mom brought chicken legs and ham sandwiches and oranges and a whole box of chocolate-covered grahams. Roberta drank milk from a thermos while her mother read the Bible to her. This does not necessarily describe any of the girls races, however, with the stereotype of each race at the time, Twyla would seem to be the poor, black girl, while Roberta was the comfortable white girl. However, this is contradictory to the previous conclusion of their races. This is furthermore supported by the disgust that Roberta s mom seemed to show toward Twyla s mom when she tried to shake her hand. Twyla s mom also reacted by ranting and calling names. Once again, based on a stereotype, black women are very outspoken and when they are offended, they make sure everyone knows it. Twyla s mom would have kept it up, if [Twyla] hadn t squeezed her hand as hard as [she] could. This brings up an interesting point. Twyla seems to carry the role of the responsible mother while her own mother exhibits childish behavior. When she first saw Twyla, [Tywla s mom] smiled and waved like she was the little girl looking for her mother not me, her daughter. Also, simple-minded Mary was not too swift when it comes to what s really going on. It s as though Mary was the na ve child being watched over by her mother. After the little rant, Mary even acts like a child, still [twitching] and [crossing and uncrossing] her legs all through the service. Even [groaning] a few times.

Following this incident in the story, Twyla encounters Roberta in Howard Johnson s. Roberta [is] sitting with two guys smothered in head and facial hair. Her own hair [is] so big and wild [that Twyla] could hardly see her face. This implies to me a sort of Afro hairstyle for both Roberta and her escorts. Even her clothing and jewelry seen to suggest that she is black. She [has] on a powder-blue halter and shorts outfit and earrings the size of bracelets, similar to the earrings worn by African women. She is also on her way to see Jimi Hendrix, a black musician, and snubs Twyla for not knowing who he is. Though this is not entirely indicative of a black person, it is more likely to be a black person. This once again contradicts the previous conclusion of Roberta s race. The line between who is black and who is white gets very hard to distinguish.

On their next encounter, Twyla and Roberta are both married. Twyla s husband, James Benson, has a big loud family. From my meager history, I seem to associate Benson as a black name based on the show The Bensons, an 80s sitcom about a black family. Generally, black families are big and loud, however, this is...
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Analysis Of Recitatif. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 12 Oct, 2010 from