Reply To: Toni Morrison, “Recitatif”

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This was a very interesting narrative with many complicated and recurring themes throughout. One of the most powerful notes in the work is the two women’s evolving perceptions of Maggie, an elderly disabled woman from their shared time at St. Bonny’s. Their perceptions of this woman are vital in shedding light upon some of Morrison’s main themes. In the beginning of the narrative, they describe Maggie as very old, bow-legged, and mute, and describe how they called Maggie names in an effort to get her to speak or cry, and how the older girls in the orchard had pushed her down and kicked her. The narrative explores this more in depth later, as Roberta eventually tells Twyla that they participated in kicking her. This, along with being told that Maggie was black, comes as a complete shock to Twyla, who wrestles with it for some time, eventually coming to two important conclusions. The first is that she honestly couldn’t remember Maggie’s race, instead recalling only her disabilities. The second is that, though she did not physically participate in kicking Maggie, she had wanted to do so. Later in the story, Roberta shares that at the time, she wanted to hurt Maggie too. It seems that Maggie’s disabilities had overwritten all other aspects of her identity, such as her race. In this happening, I believe the narrative shares some important insight on how it is easy for some people to view a person with a disability as an embodiment of that disability, diminishing their identity to only that.