Recitatif by Tony Morrison highlights prejudice of mental and physical illnesses as well as racial prejudice. It was a really interesting story to explore; both Twyla and Roberta have mothers who are ill in some way; Twyla’s mother “dances” ceaselessly, while Roberta’s mother is just described as sick. It is not really clear how Roberta perceives her mother, but Twyla clearly views her mother with some disdain. As far as mental illness goes, this is a common theme throughout the story. She seems to dislike her mother and wishes her dead because her mother is forgetful and inattentive of her surroundings. It was interesting to notice that she makes the comparison of her mother to Maggie in that neither of them could really defend themselves against the cruelties of their surroundings and more importantly Twyla harbored such hatred towards the both of them.
Another thing that stood out to me was the fact that neither Roberta nor Twyla could mention any defining features of Maggie other than her disabilities. Even though Roberta tries to make Twyla feel badly by telling her that Maggie was black and that they had participated in kicking her, she later recants her statement when they meet in the last scene. Roberta also admits that she had wanted to participate in kicking Maggie. The hatred that the both felt for Maggie likely stems from their own experience with the illnesses of their mothers. It was because of their illnesses that they had been left at St. Bonny’s, and they may have wished to take out the hurt they felt on a person they viewed as similarly afflicted.