Women in Literature

Toni Morrison uses racial stereotypes and prejudices very effectively in her short story, Recitatif. For example, one of the themes is obviously racial, and yet Morrison cleverly uses tricks in her language to keep the reader wondering which little girl is African-American and which is Caucasian. Morrison wants readers to make assumptions, and then later question those assumptions. Is Twyla white, or is Roberta white? Does it really matter?

Is Roberta's mother a black bigot, a white racist, a resentful black woman? Critic Goldstein-Shirley points to the part of Morrison's story where Twyla had never heard of Jimi Hendrix. Roberta knows who he is, but Twyla is clueless. To his credit, Goldstein-Shirley is aware that this is another little language trick because Hendrix was not embraced by the black musical culture, he was a rock star idolized by mainly white fans. The theme of tension in the story is very apparent here, as Roberta is a customer now and Twyla is the server, not looking very pretty, and not showing knowledge of popular musical figures.

Morrison's narrative when Roberta left the first sequence of the story, as far as how Twyla saw the parting, and the irony in that paragraph is not hidden and not intended to be clever. Kids always promise to write, and rarely do in "real life," so why would they be any different in fiction? It's one of those polite customs to say you'll be sure to write. Roberta "promised to write every day" but wait, if she can't read how can she write? And as for Twyla, she would have drawn pictures (very child-like) and sent them to Roberta but Roberta hadn't given Twyla her address. Did Twyla ask for it? It sounds as though she didn't. So, as stated earlier, this story used very common themes of the fragility of "friendships"; like friends getting mad at each other, and when they part, they promise to write. "Her big serious-looking eyes -- that's all I could catch when I tried to bring her to mind," Twyla said. That's it? Four months living in close quarters with a girl who was her friend, and that's all that can be recounted about her? Friendships are shallow, very thin on substance for many people (young and old), but people use all the right words to convey a sense of value, no matter that they ring hollow. Morrison handles that theme well. She handles stereotypes with literary brilliance.

TWO: I do not consider myself a "hyphenated American" at all. I think labels are unfair and often misleading. I understand why saying African-American is more appropriate than "Black" or "Black American" but we who live here and are registered and vote as American citizens should begin thinking of us as Americans. I have no problem with "Asian-Americans" and "Native Americans" but at some point in the future we need to break down those barriers and just be part of the blend of cultures known as Americans. America certainly is a melting pot but in…