Identify indirect and direct characterization in Toni Morrison's "Recitatif." 

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Many of the characterizations in "Recitatif " are done indirectly. Though Roberta is Twyla's friend, we see bits and pieces of the negative side of her personality in stages. For example, when Twyla is working as a waitress and she spots Roberta at a table, she wonders if Roberta...

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Many of the characterizations in "Recitatif" are done indirectly. Though Roberta is Twyla's friend, we see bits and pieces of the negative side of her personality in stages. For example, when Twyla is working as a waitress and she spots Roberta at a table, she wonders if Roberta will remember her, or if she'll even want to. When Twyla tells her she lives in Newburgh, the reaction from Roberta is described:

She laughed then a private laugh that included the guys but only the guys, and they laughed with her.

Roberta's smug attitude is revealed indirectly through moments such as this. The same is true of Roberta's mother in the scene at the orphan home:

Roberta's mother looked down at me and then looked down at Mary too. She didn't say anything.

Mary, on the other hand, is characterized directly:

Mary, simple minded as ever, grinned and tried to yank her hand out of the pocket with the raggedy-ann lining to shake hands, I guess.

James, Twyla's husband, and his family are also given direct portrayals:

James is as comfortable as a house slipper. He liked my cooking and I liked his big loud family.

Yet what could be called an indirect characterization of them is the description, by Twyla, that as long-time Newburgh residents they call places that have changed "by their old names." This makes a subtle point about them, that they honor the past, or perhaps that they are sentimental and have a longing for the previous state of things.

Morrison's technique throughout the story is to provide us with the background of people more often through suggestion, through implication, than by stating facts openly. Yet the narrative is straightforward and leaves no doubt as to the overall message the story imparts to the reader.

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An indirect characterization is where the author only provides hints about who a character is (defined through actions, dialogue, and personal thoughts). Readers must infer (make an educated guess) about the character based upon this masked information.

In a direct characterization, the author tells the reader exactly what a character is like. The reader is not required to read into any dialogue, actions, or private thoughts in order to define the character. Instead, the author tells the reader exactly who the character is.

Toni Morrison's "Recitatif" provides both direct and indirect characterizations. An example of direct characterization is " we were eight years old and got F's all the time." This tells readers exactly how old the girls are and that they are not very good in school. An example of an indirect characterization is "we looked like salt and pepper." Here, the reader comes to the conclusion that one girl is white, and one girl is black. Morrison does not come right out and say this. Instead, she uses a metaphor to illustrate the race of the girls.

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