Opera of Power: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

1299 WordsJun 17, 20186 Pages
The haunting arioso pulses of the memories in “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison recount the intersections of the lives of two women of different race. Twyla, the story’s narrator, and Roberta, a girl of the opposite race, are dumped at St. Bonaventure, a state home, by their mothers. Tossed and held together by the bond of abandonment, the girls form a friendship that carries them through their allotted time at St. Bonny’s. One day, the girls witness Maggie, the mute kitchen worker, fall in the apple orchard, as the older girls in the state home scorn Maggie. Dissonance arises in their separate memories of the event because Roberta remembers that the vicious older girls pushed Maggie down, although Twyla remembers just…show more content…
Twyla and Roberta have separate memories of Maggie’s fall with Roberta recalling that Maggie was black and was knocked down by the older girls, and Twyla stating that Maggie fell and was “sandy-colored”. Maggie’s androgynous race illustrates that “ the fact that Twyla really doesn’t know the race Maggie belonged to is a testament to the fact that race made little difference in the power hierarchy of the orchard”(Hardy 251). The discrepancies between the two versions show the difference between Twyla and Roberta’s view on the past. Roberta takes on a racially charged, violent view compared to Twyla’s resigned view towards the allotment of fate in life. Twyla says that, “Roberta had messed up my past somehow with that business about Maggie. I wouldn’t forget a thing like that”(Morrison 12). Roberta’s changing of the past was such an affront because it added menace to an already justified power struggle. Because of their elevated situation over Maggie, Twyla and Roberta were delighted to finally have dominance over someone else, but this delight led to internal conflict within the two characters as well as external conflict over what happened to Maggie in later meetings. The later meetings characterize the relationships of the women based on who is deemed more successful by society. Twyla’s resentment about Roberta’s treatment of her upon their second meeting and her elevated economic status upon the third, delineates Twyla’s frustration at being moved to a

More about Opera of Power: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

Open Document