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Jessica Vanerka
Mr. Newman
English 101: Rhetoric
13 November 2014
Connections to Readings
We weren't real orphans with beautiful dead parents in the sky. We were dumped
(Morrison 1).This one sentence can have a huge effect on a reader. If a reader was an orphan
himself or even had one parent whom abandoned he family, this statement would have a whole
different effect than someone with both parents in a happy loving family. When Toni Morrison
places this sentence halfway through the first page, the connections one makes to it are carried
with them throughout the rest of the story. This is due to the reader reading through a readerresponse lenseseach reader taking what is said in the reading and interpreting it in a different
way than what was originally meant by the author. While reading the short story Recitatif by
Toni Morrison, the reader makes assumptions and allows information to affect them in different
ways based on what the individual has gone through, what groups they belong to and who they
are as a person.
What a reader has gone through causes the individual to process information in a way
that relates back to different situations form their life and they were effected. According to Lois
Tyson in her book Critical Theory Today, the psychological reader-response theory states that a
readers motives strongly influence how they read. When one reads a piece of information, they
connect it to their life and it affects them differently than it does someone else. In the short story
Recitatif, Twyla is placed in an orphanage because her mother likes to dance all night
(Morrison 1). When she stated this in the text, Morrison was referring to Twylas mother as a

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stripper, however when I read this, I took it as Twylas mother was an alcoholic and the dancing
referred to her always stumbling around from being drunk. Going right along with this theory I
thought of her mother as this way because I have dealt with an alcoholic parent. This is known as
identity theme, using past experiences to subconsciously make judgments on how we see the
texts (Tyson 183), and is prominent throughout all of Morrisons text. The identity theme is used
unknowingly by each individual, and is only identified after comparing how one feels about a
piece to how another feels about it. Once one has these feelings, they can do many different
things with them, including choosing to share them in more social groups.
When one compares their findings in and feelings for a piece they do it through the social
reader response theory. According to Tyson, the social reader-response theory states that the
groups a reader belongs to have an influence on what they think about something. This could be
their race generation, religion, gender, social class, group of friends, high school class, etc. Using
this theory with the text Recitatif, and discussing it in class we are not gaining a way to read
the text, but instead another way to see something. It is then up to the reader to take the two or
more ways of seeing a text and decide which way they feel is most correct to see the piece. When
Roberta referred to her mother as sick (Morrison 1), I thought that she meant her mother had
some disease but coming to class we discussed that her mother most likely had a drug addiction.
I took that information from class and altered it a little and still believe that yes she is sick but
her sickness was caused from the drug addiction she once had.
The generation one belongs to is another group one shares feelings with and it has a lot to
do with the way that they see things. In my class, all being 17 or 18 and the piece being from the
1980s (almost two decades before we were born) we didnt connect to everything that one from
that time period would have, and some of the things we did connect to, are slightly different than

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the others from that time period did. When Toni Morrison talks about Jimi Hendrix, there were a
lot of us who had no idea who that was, but those from the 1960s knew exactly who he was.
Another generational aspect is that those in our generation are still young, we have not gone
through as much as someone older has, so our connections we have made may not be as strong
or easy to identify or feel so strongly about part of Morrisons text.
When it comes to the racial aspect of the characters in the story, Morison chooses to
leave out which character is black and which is white but assures the reader that there is one
from each race. Whether they mean to or not, readers begin to search for and to find clues
assisting them in figuring out which character is which. A study was done by David GoldsteinShirley from late 1993 through early 1994 on individuals from different races and their
conclusions from the story and wrote about it in his article Criticism. Shirley found that
although there is no significant difference in the resultant speculations themselves...knowledge
of ethnicity did not help predict whether they speculated that Twyla was black or whitebut did
help predict which clues they used to reach their conclusions (Goldstein-Shirley 7). This
connects with the social reader-response theory in a way that the reader connects with readers
from the same racial demographic.
By the end of the story, the reader has carried their thoughts from the beginning page and
on, relating what they have read to their entire life. Whether a readers realizes it or not, they
make connections to everything that they read. There are many different theories on how and
why readers make certain connections, but the two most common theories are the physiological
and social reader-response theories. However, the reader-response theories go beyond short
stories, a reader connects everything that they read or go through back to what they have once
read before or once gone through in life.

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