In the story, “Recitatif,” Toni Morrison uses vague signs and traits to create Roberta and Twyla’s racial identity to show how the characters relationship is shaped by their racial difference. Morrison wants the reader’s to face their racial preconceptions and stereotypical assumptions. Racial identity in “Recitatif,” is most clear through the author’s use of traits that are linked to vague stereotypes, views on racial tension, intelligence, or ones physical appearance. Toni Morrison provides specific social and historical descriptions of the two girls to make readers question the way that stereotypes affect our understanding of a character. The uncertainties about racial identity of the characters causes the reader to become pre-occupied with assigning a race to a specific character based merely upon the associations and stereotypes that the reader creates based on the clues given by Morrison throughout the story. Morrison accomplishes this through the relationship between Twyla and Roberta, the role of Maggie, and questioning race and racial stereotypes of the characters. Throughout the story, Roberta and Twyla meet throughout five distinct moments that shapes their friendship by racial differences.
The narrator, Twyla, begins by recalling the time she spent with her friend, Roberta, at the St. Bonaventure orphanage. From the beginning of the story, the only fact that is confirmed by the author is that Twyla and Roberta are of a different race, saying, “they looked like salt and pepper” (Morrison, 2254). They were eight-years old. In the beginning of the story, Twyla says, “My mother danced all night and Roberta’s was sick.” This line sets the tone of the story from the start. This quote begins to separate the two girls indicating that they come from difference situations. We begin to recognize the difference between Twyla and Roberta when Twyla says, “The minute I walked in and the Big Bozo introduced us, I got sick to my stomach. It was one thing to be taken out of your own bed early in the morning—it was something else to be stuck in a strange place with a girl from a whole other race. “ This quote allows the reader to clearly define the girls as separate races. This can also be seen a clue being made by the author, about race discrimination. Twyla described their situation in the orphanage by saying, “...we weren't real orphans with beautiful dead parents in the sky. We were dumped” Twyla is connecting societies stereotypical view of orphans and orphanages as abandoned places where the children were taken advantage.
They were able to form a close bond with each other through their experiences together in this hostile environment and the unfortunate circumstances they are going through despite their racial differences. Throughout Twyla’s time at the orphanage, she continuously refers to all things in life that make her less than everyone else.
Months later, Roberta and Twyla’s mother decide to visit them at the orphanage....