Recitatif Literary Elements

Recitatif Literary Elements


Short story

Setting and Context

The story takes place towards the middle of the 21th century in America.

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told from Twyla’s subjective point of view.

Tone and Mood

Tragic, childlike, violent

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Twyla and the antagonist is Roberta.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between the poor and the rich, represented here by Twyla and Roberta.


The story reaches its climax when Roberta and Twyla begin both to protest.


Twyla’s initial unwillingness to be friends with Roberta foreshadows the later scenes when Roberta will reject Twyla’s friendship.


Twyla's claim that there are no disputes between the blacks and the whites is an understatement. Towards the end of the story, it becomes clear that Twyla and Roberta have problems communicating with one another because of their race.


When Twyla talks about the time she spent in the orphanage, she mentions how she and Roberta were ignored because they were not real orphans whose parents were dead. She then mentions two categories of people who were ignoring them as well but who, according to Twyla, should have no right to do this. The categories of children mentioned were the Puerto Ricans and the Indians who also kept their distance from Twyla and Roberta. What Twyla does here is also to suggest the idea that the Puerto Ricans and the Indians were lesser categories, looked down on both by the adults and by the children as well. Thus, the author alludes towards the idea that the above mentioned groups were marginalized in the time when the action takes place.


An important imagery appears in the beginning of the story when Twyla describes herself and Roberta as being like salt and pepper. The comparison here is suggestive and creates an important image through which the narrator implies the idea that she and Roberta were complementing one another. Through this imagery, Twyla thus lets the reader understand that while many believed them to be different, they were in reality very much alike and that not many things distinguished them apart from maybe their skin color.


After seeing Roberta again, Twyla begins thinking about the time she spent at the orphanage and how she interacted with Maggie, the infirm cook. Twyla claims that she never wanted to harm Maggie but then, paradoxically, she does claim that she thought about hitting her and hurting her on some occasions.


The narrator draws a parallel between her mother and Roberta’s mother. In both cases, the women were not considered as being fit of being mothers and thus were criticized by society. The narrator mentions that Roberta’s mother was sick, and thus she was unable to take care of her child. Twyla’s mother, on the other hand, was considered unfit to raise her child because she spent her days partying and dancing. This comparison has the purpose of showing that sometimes, the mothers who broke the mold and who decided to do something for themselves were considered as being sick and even unnatural.

Metonymy and Synecdoche



In the paragraph in which Twyla describes the orchard on the orphanage grounds "fat with flowers’’.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.