• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The treatment of race in Toni Morrison's "Recitatif"

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The treatment of race in Toni Morrison's "Recitatif" Nowadays, race is considered more as an ideological or social construct rather than just a biological fact. This phenomenon is visible in many literary works. Toni Morrison, who is against all literary racism, presents in her works a new way to read American literature and enables the reader to see the hard racial truths that it contains. In her experimental short story "Recitatif" she purposely deprives her characters of their racial identity and creates ambiguity by constantly oscillating between racial codes that might apply both to black and white people. Morrison challenges the reader's expectations and any solution that is based on stereotypes by first creating and then re-creating the characters' racial identity. Her aim, by doing so, is to make the reader aware of the racial stereotypes, which are often contradictory. Toni Morrison's "Recitatif" has lyrical and ironical undertones, achieved by such narrative strategies as allusions to race stereotypes, racism, perception of racial "otherness", reversal and indirection. She plays with the reader's expectations by many plot enigmas, language tricks and storyline gaps. She also encourages the reader to deeper engagement with the text and much closer reading. Such textual elements push the reader to solve the mysteries, fill in the gaps, and thereby complete the story. By participating in making meaning out of the text, readers experience the story on a much deeper level than they otherwise would. ...read more.

Middle

That is why the reader may be inclined to perceive Roberta as a black fan of Hendrix. However, Roberta might as well be white because of the diverse audience of Jimi Hendrix's band which was an interracial band. Additionally, Morrison makes a point of letting the reader know that Twyla has no idea who Jimi Hendrix is. Again, this might suggest that Twyla is white, since most young black people during this era knew who he was, however, she could just be an uninformed girl, not interested in rock and roll. In the next part of the story, some years later, we are introduced to Twyla's husband's family. We get to know that it was big and loud and that "his grandmother is a porch swing". Such description of a family might indicate that it was an African-American family, hence the reader might assume that Twyla is black. Apart from that, she lives in working-class neighborhood and she is not very rich. That is another stereotype about black people that they are the ones who are lower in the social hierarchy and are associated with the working class. It is a very negative stereotype, which often does not have anything to do with the reality. In the same episode of the story Twyla and Roberta meet at a check-out line of Food Emporium store. Twyla describes Roberta as "dressed to kill. ...read more.

Conclusion

The readers end up questioning their previous judgments and associations about race. "Recitatif" proves to be a noteworthy experiment which is "toying" with the reader's emotions and effectively noting racial stereotypes and their characteristics. In her work of literary criticism "Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination" Morrison shows how language imposes stereotypes in literary works of classic American authors. In "Recitatif" she gives clues about racial identity of her characters and consequently forces the readers to consider the usual ways in which race is presented in literature. The best conclusion of this essay is a fragment of "Playing in the Dark" which follows: "I am a black writer struggling with and through a language that can powerfully evoke and enforce hidden signs of racial superiority, cultural hegemony, and dismissive "othering" of people and language which are by no means marginal or already and completely known and knowable in my work. My vulnerability would lie in romanticizing blackness rather than demonizing it; vilifying whiteness rather than reifying it. The kind of work I have always wanted to do requires me to learn how to maneuver ways to free up the language from its sometimes sinister, frequently lazy, almost always predictable employment of racially informed and determined chains. (The only short story I have ever written, "Recitatif", was an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial.)" ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other Authors section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other Authors essays

  1. Narrative Narrative Techniques in 'The Woman in Black'

    He feels truly confident which makes the happenings more believable ('for certainty lay deep within me') and his reference that he 'would have sworn to that on oath, on any testament' reminds us that Kipps' profession is a lawyer, and he is using terms of law.

  2. Explore the different forms of haunting in Toni Morrisons Beloved.

    This already tells the reader that Paul D. is going to confront his past, and Morrison then goes on to state "he didn't hear the whisper that the flakes of rust made either as they fell away from the seams of his tobacco tin".

  1. Presentation of Womanhood in Toni Morrison's Sula

    . I love Sula. I just don't like her"1; the second, her inadvertent participation in the drowning of one of her peers, a young boy named Chicken Little. Morrison sums up the overall effect of these incidents in one passage: "...

  2. How successful have the writers been in creating either atmosphere or emotions in the ...

    This again reverts back to the title of the story with chrysanthemums as a symbol of Elizabeth's negative experiences. Although she might not have loved her dead husband she still feels responsible for him and guilty that he has ended up the way he has, maybe this is why she

  1. Snowdrops (short story) analysis

    What do you think? Here are three possible answers. Decide whether you agree or disagree with them, and how strongly. Miss Webster remembers that she promised to take the class out even though her mind is on other things, because she is such a kind teacher.

  2. "This (novel) is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by ...

    Vonnegut tries to make the readers understand how it felt like to have just come out of war. The confusion he felt and the lost feeing. In writing this way, Vonnegut is trying to confront his readers the reality of war, how absurd and horrific its reality is.

  1. "The double-faced Hazard/Chance family is served up the reader as a model for Britain ...

    Angela Carter chose the names of the Hazard/Chance family carefully: Hazard and Chance are not two entirely different names. Hazard comes from the old French, hasard, and before that is of Turkish/Persian origin for a game of dice, "haz", (and therefore of exotic origin, lending itself to the elegant side of the family).

  2. In her essay "Flight," Doris Lessing illustrates the story of an old man who ...

    Doris makes it this way deliberately for the readers to get the clearest view of the old man?s mood, which keeps shifting from the beginning to the very end of the story. It makes us know how his mood has changed from being very happy with his favorite when the

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work