Race and Class Issues in “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison

Published: 26th June 2007
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Toni Morrison in his short story "Recitatif" shows five encounters of the two girls and makes the reader to realize all of them himself. One of the times the two characters meet as women, Twyla is living a standard middle class life together with her husband, which works as a fireman. The positions do not change, since Roberta comes in a limousine with her individual driver, she is wearing diamonds and a nice outfit. But the major question remains: which one of them is black, a lady who has a husband-fireman or a woman who married an IBM manager? The racial issues increase, at the same time as the two characters start recollecting the incident in St. Bonaventure's shelter where they've lived for a while - Maggie, kitchen worker, either was pushed down or fell down in the orchard. Fascinatingly, they also cannot find the same opinion on the racial identity of Maggie, because Twyla brings to mind a fact that she was confused hearing that Maggie was black. Even when she thought about it she actually couldn't be sure. Together with that, Twyla does not reject that she wanted to hit the lady with the crippled legs she says that they just watched and none tried to help her and they never called for help. The uncertainty about their racial identity stays open.

Racial strife pressures Twyla in the form of abusing during the fourth encounter. At the same time as Twyla is threatened by the obligatory integration, Roberta does not help her. In actual fact, Roberta makes an supplementary remark that Twyla had kicked an old black lady and she shouldn't dare to call her now. Comparing to the first encounter, positions twisted once again, because now Twyla appears to be a white girl.

The last encounter shows the conversation of two women in a coffee shop on Christmas Eve and it ends on an unsettled note, because women discuss what said about Maggie once again and race stays their central issue. This is a never-ending story; Christmas is a sign of the birth of new relationships and experiences, but racial subjects remain the same.

The scenery in "Recitatif" is used to create in your mind how skin color can change depending on the previous experiences and mindset of a reader. Problems begin when a person projects stereotypes on those in a society. Class and race are controversial, while settings classify conclusions which are made by someone. And without a doubt, "Recitatif" by Toni Morrison confirmed this point.

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