Toni Morrison’s Recitatif Introduction Toni Morrison is recognized as one of the world’s greatest living writers. While her work spans a wide array of thematic investigations, some of her most prominent concerns are civil rights and the struggles African Americans face against oppression on the American continent…
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Still, she has made seminal contributions through her poetry and short stories. Notably, her short story Recitatif is considered a seminal work in racial writing. This essay specifically examines Morrison’s Recitatif, tracing the theme of race throughout the text. Analysis Perhaps the most notable aspect of Morrison’s Recitatif is that while the short story is almost primarily concerned with race, the issue itself is only addressed indirectly. Morrison even subtly toys with this ambiguity writing, “it didn't matter that we looked like salt and pepper standing there” (Morrison), while never revealing who is salt and who is pepper. Indeed, the text never even fully reveals the racial background of the two primary characters. While there are a variety of reasons for this technique, it’s been argued that, “Throughout the story Morrison scatters information about Twyla and Roberta that proves inconclusive in terms of firmly determining the women’s racial identities. The ambiguity of these details suggests that what is essential about the women…is the nature of their relationship and their emotional connection with each other” (Gillespie, p. 163). Within this spectrum of investigation the argument is made that Morrison neglects directly revealing these protagonists’ racial backgrounds as a means of demonstrating the true importance in life is their relationship. This is a highly potent statement as it doesn’t merely reflect a theme occurring within the context of the text, or even solely to racial considerations, but rather can be extended to all forms of human interaction; that is, not only is Morrison exploring racial and social divides, but she is pointing the way forward towards a better and more equitable world. Ultimately, it is this mode of writing that places this text in a literary position that extends beyond merely a pleasurable narrative, but also makes the text truly important. In examining the theme of race in Morrison’s Recitatif it is necessary to examine it through the prism of Twyla and Roberta’s relationship. While race is a central concern, this issue emerges as an inter-connected aspect of their social interactions. Indeed, from the very beginning of the story Morrison links their development, as they were both required to visit the shelter because of their mothers, “My mother danced all night and Roberta’s was sick” (Morrison). While the line is simple and direct it underlines the complex interaction these characters will have throughout the text. It also symbolically links their life struggles to similar circumstances, showing that many of universal challenges of the human condition are not at all linked to race. In addition to these connections there are many instances towards the beginning of the text where Morrison implements vivid and descriptive narrative techniques to demonstrate the strong bond Twyla and Roberta share. Morrison writes, “We got along all right, Roberta and me. Changed beds every night, got F's in civics and communication skills and gym…We were the only ones dumped and the only ones with F's in three classes including gym” (Morrison). Although these descriptions have nothing to do with race, they demonstrate the poignant and profound connection the two girls have obtained. This connection is not contingent on race, but instead involves similar backgrounds, perspectives, and situational challenges. The story’
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Color discrimination has been a subject for many writers like Toni Morrison, the winner of Nobel Prize in 1993. Morrison has often been exalted as a writer who handles this subject in most of her works. The short story, ‘Recitatif’, published in ‘Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women’ in the year 1983, is engulfed with the relationship of two ladies of different races and the racial elements are seen sided with their growth into motherhood.
Its enigmatic plot, intelligent use of the language, and the storyline demand the concentrated and critical appreciation of the reader. The textual elements are innovative and the reader is alerted to derive meaning out of the explanations on racism and one feels that the story pursues the questions and answers strategy, full of arguments and counterarguments.
Such huge was her stature in the world of English literature and her impact on the literary norms of twentieth century that her works continue to influence writers from all parts of the world till date. It is said that no other writer could portray the nineteenth century American society as realistically yet compellingly as Kate Chopin did and this is the main reason that award-winning writers like Toni Morrison derived such huge influence from Chopin in their writing.
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