Recitatif

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Jimi Hendrix Character Analysis

Although Jimi Hendrix does not make an active appearance in the story, Roberta and her two male friends are supposedly on their way to see him when they stop by at Howard Johnson’s. Hendrix was an African-American rock musician who was hugely influential during his short career before his death at the age of 27. Associated with psychedelic rock, drugs, and 1960s counter-culture, Hendrix is a symbol of Roberta’s youthful rebelliousness and glamour, which contrasts to Twyla’s more sensible, ordinary life as a small-town waitress.

Jimi Hendrix Quotes in Recitatif

The Recitatif quotes below are all either spoken by Jimi Hendrix or refer to Jimi Hendrix. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the HarperCollins edition of Recitatif published in 1998.
Recitatif Quotes

Shoes, dress, everything lovely and summery and rich. I was dying to know what happened to her, how she got from Jimi Hendrix to Annandale, a neighborhood full of doctors and IBM executives. Easy, I thought. Everything is so easy for them. They think they own the world.

Related Characters: Twyla (speaker), Roberta, Jimi Hendrix
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Twyla has gone to the new gourmet market in Annandale out of curiosity, though she can only bring herself to buy Klondike bars as the other groceries are too expensive. In the checkout line, she runs into Roberta, who is dressed in elegant clothing and carrying expensive grocery items. In this passage, Twyla moves from a dazzled curiosity about Roberta’s new life to a bitter resentment of Roberta on the grounds of her (unknown) race. Rather than seeing Roberta as an individual, Twyla considers her a representative of negative stereotypes about her race: “Everything is so easy for them. They think they own the world.”

It may at first seem more likely that Twyla would make this statement about white people, considering the power and privilege of white people within American society. On the other hand, because of the constant mixed, ambiguous signals regarding Twyla and Roberta’s races, the reader is forced to consider the possibility that Twyla is white and assumes that black people “think they own the world.” This would actually cohere with anti-black racism, particularly during the latter half of the 20th century, when African Americans did experience an improvement in political rights and social mobility. To many white racists, even this marginal progress was a sign that black people were getting too entitled and arrogant.

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We went into the coffee shop holding on to one another and I tried to think why we were glad to see each other this time and not before. Once, twelve years ago, we passed like strangers. A black girl and a white girl meeting in a Howard Johnson's on the road and having nothing to say. One in a blue-and-white triangle waitress hat, the other on her way to see Hendrix. Now we were behaving like sisters separated for much too long.

Related Characters: Twyla (speaker), Roberta, Jimi Hendrix
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

Having run into one another at the gourmet market, Roberta asks Twyla to join her for a coffee. Twyla briefly worries about the Klondike bars she has just bought melting in her car, but chooses not to mention them and go to the coffee shop with Roberta. Unlike the scene in Howard Johnson’s, now the two women warm to each other and descend to a joyous, childlike state—“like sisters separated for much too long.”

Twyla’s words emphasize the fact that she and Roberta do have a familial relationship to one another, even though at other points in the story this sense of kinship has seemingly been erased by their racial and socioeconomic differences. This inconsistency is conveyed through Twyla’s language. When describing their meeting in Howard Johnson’s, she and Roberta are just “a black girl and a white girl” who “passed like strangers”; in Annandale, however, they are “like sisters.”

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Jimi Hendrix Character Timeline in Recitatif

The timeline below shows where the character Jimi Hendrix appears in Recitatif. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Recitatif
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
...with them, but instead Roberta tells her that they are on the way to see Hendrix. Twyla responds enthusiastically, asking what “she is doing now.” Roberta clarifies that she meant “Jimi... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...Johnson’s, still feeling hurt and wondering how Roberta has gone from going to see Jimi Hendrix to living in a fancy suburb. (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
...from their time at St. Bonny’s, and Twyla asks what ended up happening with Jimi Hendrix, but Roberta doesn’t respond. Instead, she tells Twyla about her husband, Kenneth, and their two... (full context)