Loss and Identity

673 Words3 Pages
Toni Morrison allows her readers to explore race through their own perspectives by not explicitly identifying the race of the two main characters in her only short story, “Recitatif.” By withholding this information, Morrison enables the reader to apply their own prejudices to their understanding of the characters’ identities. Reading “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop and “Recitatif” by Morrison together creates a deeper understanding about societal standards and establishing one’s own identity than evaluating either piece alone. A villanelle is a very structured poem; its use creates a mask for the writer to hide behind and conform to expected constraint. “One Art” loosely follows the structure of a villanelle, keeping with the correct number of lines per stanza, but straying from the expected rhyme scheme and repetition. The use of a rigid structure confines people, forcing their ideas to be regulated. This expectation is the antithesis of individuality. Deviation from this regimentation sets people up for disappointment, “I wonder what made me think you were different,” said both Twyla and Roberta as daggering insults thrown at one another (Morrison, 256). The structure allows Bishop to seem successful in maintaining control and her composure throughout the poem “One Art,” until the last stanza when she strays from typical structure by adding the word ‘too’ in line one of the refrain and writing that loss “may look like (Write it!) like disaster” (Bishop, 18-19). Using the villanelle’s format, Bishop has to end the poem with “disaster.” Struggling with the hindrance prescribed by the framework, “(Write it!)” suggests an urgency to just finish and conform. Even though the villanelle prescribes that the refrain ends the poem, Bis... ... middle of paper ... ...ses represent the physical absence of her mother. Implicitly, however, these objects symbolize the lost memories of her mother. The possessive nature of the “mother’s watch” shows that its loss was not welcome. In Morrison’s story when Twyla and Roberta connect many years after staying at the orphanage, Roberta suggests that Maggie, the “kitchen woman with legs like parentheses,” was black (Morrison, 245). Twyla then claims that Maggie was her “dancing mother,” meaning that she was “dead” and “dumb” in addition to being “nobody who would hear you if you cried in the night” (259). The grief Twyla experiences suggests that she felt as though no one cared, that no one had cared for her mother either. Bishop’s use of imagism in “One Art” helps the reader to comprehend the ability of the speaker to move on from lost items such as a mother’s watch or loved houses.
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