Recitatif: Toni Morrison Essay
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In 1983, Toni Morrison published the only short story she would ever create. The controversial story conveys an important idea of what race is and if it really matter in the scheme of life. This story takes place during the time period of the Civil Rights Movement. The idea of civil rights was encouraged by the government but not enforced by the states, leaving many black Americans suffering every day. In Morrison’s short story Recitatif, Morrison manipulates the story’s diction to describe the two women’s races interchangeably resulting in the confusion of the reader. Because Morrison never establishes the “black character” or the “white character”, the reader is left guessing the race of the two main characters throughout the whole…show more content…
Mary is so embarrassed that she starts to curse uncontrollably. During the time period of the story, the African Americans were seen as “animals” and swearing was viewed as being unwomanly and animal like. At the third encounter, Twyla and Roberta meet each other at the Food Emporium which is a rich, gourmet grocery store. Shopping at the same grocery store implies that both of the women are well off economically and are not necessary struggling. This acquaintance counteracts the previous theory that Twyla was black and Roberta was white because both women were shopping at rich stores. Contradicting meetings like these happen throughout the short story and Morrison manipulates the contrasting details of the races’ to make the reader befuddled during the conclusion of the story. Even by the fourth encounter, the women’s races cannot be defined. Twyla and Roberta see each other at a picketing riot for forced integration of busing in Twyla’s hometown of Newburgh, NY. “The forced busing was in favor by the black people because they wanted equality, while the white people would be against it because they did not want their children to be around black people” (www.hover.org). As Twyla is walking by the rioters, she is momentarily harassed by the people protesting with Roberta. However, Roberta pays no attention to Twyla, ignoring her completely. After Roberta and Twyla have a short and heated exchange about a girl they used to go to school with,
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.
- BlackNet Art. 29. October 2007 http://www.blacknetart.com/Morrison.html.
- Dictionary.com.” Definition of Recitative.” 31 October 2007
- Morisson, Toni, “Recitatif.” 29 October 2007