Recitatif by Toni Morrison challenges readers to not make assumptions about the main character based on their race since the author never reveals which girl is white or black. Students will learn and discuss themes of race, identity, social class, friendship and memory.
Twyla - The book's narrator and one of the protagonists.
Roberta - One of the protagonists. Twyla's childhood friend.
Maggie - St. Bonaventure's deaf and mute cook.
Mary - Twyla's mother.
"Roberta's mother" - ...you guessed it, Roberta's mom.
James Benson - Twyla's husband.
Kenneth Norton - Roberta's husband.
Jospeh - Twyla and James' son.
Mrs. Itkin or "Big Bozo" - One if the managers of St. Bonaventure's.
Source: GradeSaver, The Genius of Play, Britannica
Recitatif Discussion Questions
What is the story trying to tell us about friendship and memory? Do you think friendship can stand the test of time? Is this the case for Twyla and Roberta? What memories and events bond Twyla and Roberta?
Do you think Twyla and Roberta were afraid of Maggie as children? When the girls meet again as grownups, how does Roberta react to Twyla’s memory of Maggie? How does Roberta’s reaction make Twyla feel?
Neither of the girls can agree on Maggie's race; she's described as "sandy colored" and as "pitch-black." Why do you think the author doesn't reveal Maggie's race and what does this tell us about race and identity in general?
What does Twyla say about Maggie at the end of Act 4? (Answer: “Maggie was my dancing mother.”)
What does she mean by this? Look for clues in the text. • At the very end of this act, Twyla says that she knew Maggie “couldn’t scream—just like me—and I was glad about that.” Why do you think she identifies with Maggie? • Why do you think Twyla would have been “glad” that Maggie couldn’t call out for help?
Anecdote - A short description or an account of any event to support some point that makes the readers laugh over the topic presented for the purpose.
Autobiography - A type of biography written by the author themselves to record their own lives.
Bias - A one-side illogical and non-neutral support of a viewpoint in favor against the other side.
Biography - Typically written in third person, a biography is a non-fiction and objective account of a person's life.
Comic Relief - A literary device used in plays and novels to introduce light entertainment between tragic scenes.
Imagery - Imagery is a literary device that refers to the use of figurative language to evoke a sensory experience with words for a reader.
Irony - Irony is a literary device in which contradictory statements or situations reveal a reality that is different from what appears to be true.
Memoir - A story involving reflections on memories of particular events in someone's life.
Metaphor - A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two non-similar things.
Motif - An object or idea that repeats itself throughout a literary work.
Novel - A long work of fiction written in prose.
Propaganda - The spreading of rumors, false or correct information, or an idea, in order to influence the opinion of society.
Semantic - The interpretation and meaning of the words, sentence structure, and symbols.
Setting - Device that allows the writer of a narrative to establish the time, location, and environment in which it takes place.
Simile - A figure of speech in which two essentially dissimilar objects or concepts are expressly compared with one another through the use of “like” or “as.”
Stereotype - Preconceived notion about people or things with a particular characteristics.
Symbolism - Device that refers to the use of symbols in a literary work, representing something beyond literal meaning.
Theme - Underline Refers to the central, deeper meaning of a written work.
Tone - Device that reflects the writer’s attitude toward a subject matter or audience of a literary work.