A famous novelist once said "if there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it" and that famous novelist is Toni Morrison, who is also known as Chloe Ardelia Wofford. She was born on February 1930. Not only she's the first African-American to win the Nobel Prize, which is the most famous international award that is considered to be a great honor for any writer (Haskins 9), she also happens to be and editor and a professor. Toni is well-known for two famous novels "Beloved" and "Song of Solomon", in addition to her remarkable work is her first and only short story which is "Recitatif". This short story was written in 1983, the word "Recitatif", also can be written as "recitative", is defined according to Merriam Webster dictionary site as "a rhythmically free vocal style that imitates the natural inflections of speech and that is used for dialogue and narrative in operas and oratorios". Moreover, the events in the story revolves around two girls from different races who meet in an orphanage during their staying they become best friends after they both departure they encounter each other several times through the story. although the story seems straight forward without any complications, but I will be talking about black vs. white and the possible predictions, Maggie and the inner conflict, and the class distinction in the story.
Before starting with my three topics, I'll define first what realism is since the story is realistic. According to Donna is "the faithful representation of reality" and a continuation to what she said "realism is a technique, it also denotes a particular kind of subject matter, especially the representation of middle-class life" (2010) the fair definition that can explain realism.
First, the black vs. white and the possible predictions in the story, Toni tried so hard not reveal which one of the girls is black and which one is white, even though she told us in the beginning of the story that they're both from different races "it was something else to be stuck in a strange place with a girl from a whole other race" (Baym 2638) but she didn't specify them. the writer used this method to challenge the readers, make them think and make some predictions while reading the story, the possible reason for her intentionally doing this is that she wants us to see them as human not by their race (Kusumoto 12). throughout the story several hints were given so the reader can start his/her assumptions, like when the two girls' were introduced to each Twyla remembered what her mother said "she said that they never washed their hands and they smelled funny" (Baym 2638) this makes us think that Twyla is white and Roberta is not. But when the mothers we're visiting them in the orphanage Roberta's mother refused to shake hands with Twyla's mom "she didn't say anything, just grabbed Roberta's hand with her bible-free hand and stepped out of line, walking quickly to the rear of it." (Baym 2641) by this we can assume that Roberta is white and Twyla is black knowing at that time white people had no respect for black people. However this idea changes when Roberta talks about jimi Hendrix, who is an African American musician and a rock star, and Twyla never heard of him (baym 2638). Still we can't determine who is white and who is black their race is still ambiguous, we cannot really decide at the end.
Second, Maggie and the inner conflict, many things in the story can indicate to other things that should not be ignored like objects, colors, places, and even characters. The most important thing I'll be focusing on is the character Maggie. In the story, Maggie is an old woman in the orphanage with some disabilities; she has been abused and beaten by the big girls. Moreover, both of the women, Twyla and Roberta, remembered Maggie differently and both of them thought that she represented their mothers and them. For Twyla, she focused more on Maggie's physical disability when she said "the kitchen woman with legs like parentheses" (Baym 2639) this can represent her mother who dances all night. On the other hand, Roberta focused on her mental disability when she said "and because she couldn't talk well, you know, I thought she was crazy. She'd been brought up in an institution like my mother was and like I thought I would be too" (Baym 2651) which also represented her sick mother and she mentioned she represented her. Even though Twyla and Roberta remembered Maggie differently and both of them said that she resembles both of their mothers, but both of them desired to beat her so bad but they couldn't and wanted the big girls to hurt her, this mean both of them had issues with their mothers, and had strong feelings toward them.
Third, the class distinction in the story, at that time class distinction was very common and it is obvious in the orphanage when the separate classes were given on the top we have the bozo which is in the upper class, then after that there are the big girls, which are the teenagers mentioned in the story "those girls with lipstick and eyebraw pencil" those girls are the most feared ones in the orphanage, they bully the kids and Maggie. And beneath the big girls there are the real orphans "with beautiful dead parents in the sky" (Baym 2639). After that there is Twyla and Roberta the two dumped girls by their mothers, they are usually bullied by the big girls and the other kids did not want be near them. Then there is Maggie in the last she is bullied by everyone. Those classes were organized from the stronger to the weaker.
In conclusion, the short story "Recitatif" was beautifully written by Toni Morrison. Even though it is still ambiguous to differentiate who is black and who is white, how Maggie resembles the two girls and their mother, and the obvious class distinction in the orphanage, the story still entertaining to read, and it is written in a creative way and well structured.
Baym, Nina "The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 2637-2651." W. w. Norton & company, inc. New York.
Kusumoto, Jitsuko "Memories of the Daughters from "Recitatif" to Beloved", 21-24." Research Reports of KNCT Vol.35 (2008)
Haskins, Jim "Toni Morrison: The Magic of Words, 9" the Millbrook Press, Inc. 2001
Campbell, Donna M. "Realism in American Literature, 1860-1890." Literary Movements. Dept. of English, Washington State University. 03/22/2010. http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/realism.htm. 12/30/2010