Critique Of Recitatif Essay, Research Paper
Critique of Recitatif Sometimes, the mere fact of being from a different race can influence people’s way of thinking or attitude toward other people with different color skin. That is the theme of Toni Morrison’s short story Recitatif. In the story, two eight year old girls, Roberta and Twyla, from different races (black and white) meet in an orphanage called St. Bonny’s. Eventually, they get out of the orphanage and they chance upon each other several times. They find out that they have changed because they have different views and opinions about what is happening and what happened in the past. Although, Toni Morrison attempts to have no racial language in this short story, the way in which things are said and referred to gives the reader an idea about the races of the two main characters. However, these references play upon the readers own stereotypes and generalizations. Several things said throughout the whole piece can be classified as “racial imagery” because they are obviously referring to another race. From the beginning, it is known that Twyla and Roberta are of different races. For example, Twyla says that her mother told her “that they never washed their hair and they smelled funny”. Later, she says that they (Roberta and her) did not care if they looked like salt and pepper together. If the reader has this stereotype about another race (it does not matter if he or she is black or white) he or she will realize the races of each character, respectively. If the reader does not have that stereotype it will make no difference to his or her opinion. When Twyla and Roberta first reencounter at Howard Johnson’s, the narrator (Twyla) describes Roberta as having a very big, wild hair that made it difficult to see her face. This description can make the reader think that the narrator is describing an “afro”, but the description is not enough to make that judgment. Several other things are said about Roberta which can be considered racial imagery. For example, she was a Jimi Hendrix fan, married a computer man, and had servants. These facts can make the reader think to know the races, but those who understand and know the customs and ways of thinking of the time in which the action develops will have a better judgment. It all depends on the discrimination the reader has.
There is only one part in which we are told indirectly which are the races of the characters. It is in Twyla and Roberta’s second reencounter. Twyla asks Roberta why she was mean to her the first time they saw each other in Howard Johnson. Roberta answers her: “Oh Twyla, you know how it was in those days: black-white. You know how everything was.” Twyla does not feel the same way. She thinks that is not true and says: “… blacks were very friendly with whites in those days.” This is where Toni Morrison fails in achieving her goal of eliminating racial language, because Twyla is complaining about the days when she thought that blacks were very friendly with whites and her friend Roberta was not friendly with her. The characters in Recitatif are believable, but a weakness of this reading is that the author does not make good transitions. It is very confusing when you read the dialogues because one can easily get confused about who is talking. Even though the author does not accomplish her purpose of writing without racial language, it is a good and interesting reading, specially for those readers who like readings in which one gets confused about what is happening.