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The Importance of Race : An Analysis of Recitatif

            The story “Recitatif,” by Toni Morrison, challenges the question of whether or not race matters. The story follows the lives of two young girls, one black and one white, that are left in an orphanage by their parents. Twyla, one of the girls, is left there by her mother, who she says is always busy “dancing” (157 Morrison). Roberta, the other girl, always repeats that she is there because her mother is sick. Despite the immediate racial tension, the two establish a relationship of sorts that borders on a true friendship, or at least a mutual understanding. In a similar place from similar circumstances, they differ only by the color of their skin. Morrison makes a point by masking the true race of the two main characters to prove that although race is not important in the context of the story, it has importance to the reader. The reader will use their own stereotypes regarding race to attempt to determine Twyla’s and Roberta’s respective races. .
             Throughout the course of the story, the actual race of either Twyla or Roberta is never clearly revealed or even hinted at to make the point that race is not important in the context of the story. Race is often seen as an obvious characteristic that can be extrapolated from the writing by picking up on subtle hints in the story. As the reader reads the story, a guess as to which girl is what race will undoubtedly change in the process. What’s important is that while this is happening, the story is still developing the two characters as they are growing up. One way the two develop a relationship is from their common fear of the older girls there, “They’d light out after us and pull our hair or twist our arms. We were scared of them, Roberta and me, but neither of us wanted the other to know it” (158). Their fear of the big girls also kept them from helping the mute kitchen lady Maggie, “Maggie fell down there once.