Role of Parents in Morrison's Recitatif and O'Connor's The Artificial Nigger

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Role of Parents in Morrison's Recitatif and O'Connor's The Artificial Nigger Parental figures in Toni Morrison's "Recitatif" and Flannery O'Connor's "The Artificial Nigger" use indoctrination in an attempt to uphold tradition and reinforce racial boundaries. While one adult influence fulfills the mission entirely, the other must settle for inconstant, recurrent success and ultimate failure. In "Recitatif" and "The Artificial Nigger" a mother and a grandfather, respectively, with too much responsibility seek to alter the lives of two children for the worst. Roberta Fisk and Nelson Head receive introductions to the concept of racism from people with a great deal of control over their lives. Morrison's piece illustrates the part of racism involving feelings of contempt. When Roberta introduces her mother to her roommate Twyla and Twyla's mother, "Roberta's mother [looks] down at [Twyla] and then [looks] down at Mary too. She [doesn't] say anything, just [grabs] Roberta with her Bible-free hand and [steps] out of line, walking quickly to the rear of it" (213). Through her rudeness, Roberta's mother essentially tells her that people like Twyla and Mary lack value and stand beneath them. The idea of superior feelings stems from Morrison pointing out the fact that Roberta's mother looks down at Twyla and Mary after previously acknowledging her significant height. In a more blatant manner, Mr. Head takes Nelson to the city of Atlanta with the primary intention of turning him against black people. To prepare Nelson for " the moral mission of the coming day" (250), Mr. Head tells Nelson that "[he] may not like [the city] a bit" because "it'll be full of niggers" (252). While Nelson apparently r... ... middle of paper ... ...ules by which a child lives. In a sense, Roberta's mother and Mr. Head refuse to learn from the mistakes of the past and plan for history to flawlessly reoccur. Nelson Head completely surrenders to his grandfather's ignorance because he knows no one and nothing except him and what he has with him. On the other hand, Roberta Fisk resists the majority of her mother's influence because her mother lacks reliability. Unfortunately, Roberta loses almost as much as Nelson does; she goes through the rest of her life confused about what she believes. Works Cited Morrison, Toni, "Recitatif." African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology. Ed. Al Young. New York: Harper Collins, 1996. 209-25. O'Connor, Flannery, "The Artificial Nigger." The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1971. 249-70.

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