There are a few settings in time and place in Toni Morrison's short story "Recitatif." The story opens up at St. Bonaventure, an orphanage, sometime around the 1950s, which is implied by the reference to The Wizard of Oz and the girls' ages. The reader is introduced...
There are a few settings in time and place in Toni Morrison's short story "Recitatif." The story opens up at St. Bonaventure, an orphanage, sometime around the 1950s, which is implied by the reference to The Wizard of Oz and the girls' ages. The reader is introduced to Twyla and Roberta, one of whom is black and the other white, but the story doesn't say whom.
The next time Twyla and Roberta meet is at Howard Johnson's. This takes place sometime around the 1960s, because Roberta is on her way to see Jimi Hendrix, a famous musician around that time.
The women meet again in the late 1960s or early 1970s at a Food Emporium in Newburgh. Twyla mentions her son Joseph, and Roberta mentions that she's doing well and has a nice family. Both women have married.
They have another encounter shortly after this, meeting at the Food Emporium in a school parking lot where people are picketing. Roberta is holding a sign that says, "Mothers have rights, too."
Finally, the women meet for the final time in a small diner around the 1980s. The girls share their feelings about what they did to Maggie at St. Bonaventure.
The historical setting of the story is what makes it significant and illustrates the protagonist's main struggle. "Recitatif" is set during a time of great racial tension. Some notable events include the Jim Crow laws, which segregated black and white people. Another notable event included "desegregated bussing," which attempted to balance schools racially. Part of this included the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools. Morrison uses racial stereotypes to highlight how inconsequential race is when it comes to the negative effects of isolation, alienation, and social exclusion. Morrison uses the setting as a way to develop the protagonist's struggle with identity. The protagonist struggles with isolation and exclusion, which is reflected by the setting and historical context of the story. The deliberate omission of race also causes the reader to infer the race of either girl and question the basis for their own racial stereotypes.
Protagonists are generally portrayed as sympathetic characters. A sympathetic character is one the author intends for the reader to identify with and care about. At the end of the story, Twyla reflects on her wrongful treatment of a mute girl, Maggie, at St. Bonaventure. She realizes that she and Roberta never physically bullied Maggie, but that Twyla wanted to. Twyla seems to sincerely regret that incident when she says, "I wanted to do it so bad that day—wanting to is doing it."