Recitatif By Toni Morrison: Character Analysis

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In the short story “Recitatif”, Toni Morrison exploits her reader’s inability to be free from racial stereotyping by vaguely describing, on purpose, the two major characters. Even the character’s names elicit a stereotype unto themselves. Through a total of five “episodes”, Morrison challenges readers’ conceptions on both Twyla and Roberta’s race as they collide with each other, throughout their otherwise mundane lives. To begin, Morrison throws the reader into a world where, “to be stuck in a strange place with a girl from a whole other race” (1), is not what the protagonist had in mind. To elaborate, Twyla introduces her roommate based on stereotypes, “One of the things she said was that they never washed their hair and they smelled funny.…show more content…
This time Roberta is described as, “Her huge hair was sleek now, smooth around a small, nicely shaped head. Shoes, dress, everything lovely and summery and rich” (Morrison 8). They both seem to enjoy reconnecting until they have the fourth conflict over busing segregation. The women end up being on different sides of the picket lines. Metaphorically, they’re still connected but the divide shows here as a racial one. When the discussion changes to Maggie tensions rise as Roberta states, “Maybe I am different now, Twyla. But you’re not. You’re the same little state kid who kicked a poor old black lady when she was down on the ground” (Morrison 14). This leads to their final confrontation where Roberta is somewhat intoxicated and begins an honest conversation into the truth behind what happened to Maggie. To conclude, no one can escape the initial bias they have whenever they meet someone of a different race. I argue Morrison intentionally exploits this bias to reiterate the message that first impressions should not define a person. Stereotypes and bias only steer the human race down an ugly path. In the end, Twyla and Roberta put aside their differences and settled their conflicts. Their child-like forgiveness strengthens Morrison’s argument about bias and

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