Essays On Recitatif

Essays On Recitatif-71
For the young Twyla, as she watched the "gar girls" kick Maggie, Maggie was her mother — stingy and unresponsive, neither hearing Twyla nor communicating anything important to her.Just as Maggie resembles a child, Twyla's mother seems incapable of growing up.She is like something parenthetical, an aside, cut off from the things that really matter.

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Toni Morrison's short story, "Recitatif," appeared in 1983 in "Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women." It is Morrison's only published short story, though excerpts of her novels have sometimes been published as stand-alone pieces in magazines, such as "Sweetness," excerpted from her 2015 novel "God Help the Child." The two main characters in the story, Twyla and Roberta, are troubled by the memory of the way they treated — or wanted to treat — Maggie, one of the workers in the orphanage where they spent time as children.

"Recitatif" ends with one character sobbing, "What the hell happened to Maggie?

She yells that Twyla "kicked a poor old black lady when she was down on the ground...

You kicked a black lady who couldn't even scream." Twyla finds herself less troubled by the accusation of violence — she feels confident that she would never have kicked anyone — than by the suggestion that Maggie was black, which undermines her confidence completely.

As Twyla and Roberta encounter each other sporadically through the years, their memories of Maggie seem to play tricks on them.

One remembers Maggie as black, the other as white, but eventually, neither feels sure.

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