The short story Recitatif is divided into "encounters," each one a union or reunion between the characters Twyla and Roberta. Meeting in a state home for children, Twyla and Roberta become friends because of their similar circumstances. Both are currently residing at St. Bonny's because their mothers could not provide adequate care for them. Neither of the children knows the reality of what is happening with their mothers, Roberta being told her mother is sick and Twyla being told her mother "dances all night. Despite these differences, what they have both been through is what makes them such good friends.
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When they are initially introduced they do not get along. Eventually, the girls begin to bond over the fact that they understand each other without asking questions.
They are also forced together by the fact that they are excluded from the rest of the children at St. The older girls hang out in the orchard , where they listen to the radio and dance. She is mute and possibly deaf, and has bow legs that cause her to rock and sway as she walks.
The story jumps eight years ahead in time. One day, when a Greyhound Bus stops at the diner, Twyla notices that Roberta is among the passengers, accompanied by two young men. Roberta replies that she is fine, asks after Mary, and leaves. The narrative jumps another twelve years forward. Twyla is now married to a man named James whose family have lived in Newburgh for generations; the couple have a son named Joseph.
Despite high rates of poverty, Newburgh is simultaneously gentrifying, and a gourmet market has opened in the city. Twyla visits out of curiosity, but feels anxious at the prospect of buying anything. She eventually resolves to buy only Klondike bars , because both her son and father-in-law love them.
At the checkout, Twyla runs into Roberta, who is dressed elegantly and reveals that she now lives in the wealthy suburb of Annandale along with her husband and four stepchildren. Roberta suggests the two women have coffee.
Twyla brings up Maggie, and Roberta claims that Maggie did not fall in the orchard, but was pushed by the gar girls. Twyla is confused, as she remembers many interracial groups of friends coming into the diner together, but brushes it off.
This compels Twyla to drive back and approach Roberta. The two women have a conversation about the protest that quickly descends into fierce and petty bickering. Roberta insists that she was, and that the two of them both kicked her.
With Roberta gone, Twyla chooses not to come back either. More time passes. It is Christmas time, and Joseph is now in college. On her way back from buying a Christmas tree, Twyla decides to stop and get a cup of coffee. Roberta asks to speak with her, and although she is resistant at first, Twyla eventually agrees.
The women briefly exchange small talk, before Roberta admits that there is something she had promised herself she would tell Twyla if the two ever met again. Roberta admits that she truly thought Maggie was black, but that she knew all along that she and Twyla did not kick her—they just watched while the gar girls did it. However, Roberta adds that she really wanted the girls to hurt Maggie, which is just as bad.
Roberta starts crying and Twyla comforts her, suspecting that Roberta is upset because she is drunk. Twyla soothes her friend by reminding her that they were only eight-year-old children who were lonely. Roberta seems to feel a little better, and Twyla asks after her mother. Roberta sadly admits that she never got better, and Twyla says Mary never stopped dancing. What the hell happened to Maggie? Plot Summary. All Themes Friendship vs. Adulthood Race and Prejudice. LitCharts Teacher Editions.
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The Meaning of Maggie in Toni Morrison's 'Recitatif'
When they are initially introduced they do not get along. Eventually, the girls begin to bond over the fact that they understand each other without asking questions. They are also forced together by the fact that they are excluded from the rest of the children at St. The older girls hang out in the orchard , where they listen to the radio and dance. She is mute and possibly deaf, and has bow legs that cause her to rock and sway as she walks. The story jumps eight years ahead in time.
In her only published short story, Morrison purposely keeps the racial identities of the two main characters unclear. And, of course, perms exist. Reading the story made me very aware of my own stereotypes and prejudices, and hopefully helped me overcome a few of them. I think the argument can be made that Twyla and Roberta are more alike than they are different, particularly in the beginning of the story.
Recitatif by Toni Morrison: Summary & Analysis
The reader is left wondering not just about the answer, but also about the meaning of the question. Is it asking what happened to Maggie after the children left the orphanage? Is it asking what happened to her while they were there, given that their memories conflict? Is it asking what happened to make her mute? Or is it a larger question, asking what happened not just to Maggie, but to Twyla, Roberta, and their mothers?
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