Determining the race of Twyla and Roberta from the clouded descriptions in Recitatif is a rather difficult task. The evidence in my opinion leads me to believe that Roberta is white and that Twyla is black. In this paper I will identify situations in this story that reinforce my opinion. I will also explain how minority group treatment influenced my perception of the events in this story. My early impression of Roberta was that of a spoiled country girl with little or no education that opinion was based on her inability to read and her waste of food at meal times.
Finishing all your food is a strong force in many black families this waste can be construed as a connection to Roberta being white. The first verbal indication is Roberta’s mother’s refusal to greet Twyla’s mother Mary. This is a strong image of prejudice in my opinion. Roberta’s mother said nothing. She just grabbed Roberta and stepped out of line. Roberta’s mother’s disinterest in meeting a woman of the opposite race makes a convincing argument that she is white and in her mind better than associating with blacks.
In the next scene the families were eating Lunch. Twyla made the observation that “The wrong food is always with the wrong people. ” And the connection that “Maybe that’s why I got into waitress work later-to match up the right people with the right food. ” There is a common stereotype that black people love chicken. So the white Roberta having the “black” chicken could be considered a Mitch match and since Roberta is white she should not have the chicken. The next piece of evidence comes much later when the two old friends are reunited in a supermarket.
They have exchanged pleasantries and discussed how well there lives are going. It is obvious to the reader that Roberta is well off financially. Roberta makes the comment “I was dying to know what happened to her, how she got from Jimi Hendrix to Annandale, a neighborhood full of doctors and IBM executives. Easy, I thought. Everything is so easy for them. They think they own the world. ” This statement shows that Twyla is aware of how easy it is for white people to raise their economic class.
It can be implied that Roberta made the large advance because she was of the proper “white” race to make such advancement. The final piece of evidence is When Twyla confronts Roberta on her poor behavior at their encounter in Howard Johnson’s Roberta says “Oh, Twyla, you know how it was in those days: black-white. You know how everything was. ” Roberta here identifies the strong pressure she felt from her peers to not associate with the “lower” black race. My first indication of Twyla’s race was the way her mother Mary introduced herself.
She used the phrase “Twyyyyyla, baby! ” the term “baby” is commonly associated with older black females. Mary’s reaction to Roberta’s mother’s refusal to shake hands coupled with the loud outbursts on the way to the chapel are also part of what society has deemed as black female behavior. Mary is described wearing “those ugly green slacks that made her behind stick out” There is a stereotype that black women have large behinds. These examples leads me believe Roberta’s mother is black and so the daughter must be of the same race.
Throughout the story Roberta is always depicted in a lower class than Roberta always overshadowed by Roberta. Roberta marries into a higher social standing and has an implied superiority throughout the story. The statement “Everything is so easy for them. They think they own the world. ” Is a common opinion about the social standing of whites in the United States. There are a lot of conflicting data to for both sides of this argument. In my opinion though there is much more evidence that leads the reader to believe that Roberta is white and Twyla is black.
Courtney from Study Moose
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