Give examples of the stereotypes in Toni Morrison's "Recitatif."

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annetl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Morrison gives many examples of stereotypes in her short story "Recitatif." The narrator, Twyla, describes her roommate of "a whole other race," Roberta, as being of a race that "never washed their hair" and "smelled funny." But her initial reaction, which plays on readers' ideas about other races (stereotypes), is supplemented by many other details of both Roberta's and her life.

Twyla later thinks, "Everything is so easy for them. They think they own the world." The "them" in this quote is in reference to the "other" race, meaning either blacks or whites, whichever race Twyla is not.

Morrison plays on readers' ideas of common racial stereotypes: which race (white or black) is rich or poor, which race eats certain kinds of food (like chicken, or gourmet food), which race is more likely to be Christian, which race is more likely to be mentally ill, to be a dancer, to be a bad mother, to be institutionalized, to wear certain types of clothing, to work certain types of jobs (like waitress), to protest school integration via busing, to have a chauffeur, to marry into a good family, to marry a divorced man with four children, to have a certain figure (big as a man or with a pronounced rear end), to like certain kinds of music (Jimi Hendrix), to have certain kinds of hair (like Roberta's, which Twyla comments on more than once), or even to wear a fur coat.

These are just a few of the many stereotypes the story discusses. And many of these stereotypes might fit both races or might not really mark race at all. Instead, they might be stereotypes about socioeconomic class.

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