Recitatif

Maggie Character Analysis

Introduced as a minor character, Maggie comes to take on a central—if mysterious—significance within the story. The children at St. Bonny’s refer to her as the “kitchen woman,” and Twyla’s initial description of her emphasizes the fact that she is old, “sandy-colored,” and bow-legged. Maggie cannot talk, and while some children claim her tongue was cut out, Twyla suspects that she has simply never been able to speak. She and Roberta test Maggie’s ability to hear by calling her “Dummy!” and “Bow Legs!”. While she doesn’t react, Twyla is left feeling guiltily certain that she could hear them. Over the course of the story it becomes clear that the children feel angry toward Maggie on the basis of her helplessness and vulnerability. Twyla fixates on the fact that she wears “a really stupid little hat—a kid’s hat with ear flaps.” Later, she comes to understand the similarities between Maggie’s unusual way of moving (caused by her physical disability) and Twyla’s mother Mary’s problem of “dancing all night.” Like the other children, Twyla wants to hurt Maggie because Maggie represents both Mary’s and Twyla’s own vulnerability. Maggie becomes a point of contention between Twyla and Roberta when Roberta claims that the two of them kicked her in the orchard along with the gar girls. Roberta also claims that Maggie is black, a fact that Twyla disputes (along with the memory of her and Roberta kicking her). Roberta later rescinds her claim that the two children pushed Roberta, but at this point both women have been forced to confront their desire to hurt Maggie, even if they didn’t actually kick her themselves. Meanwhile, Maggie’s racial ambiguity reflects the women’s own complicated relationship with race, including their resistance to being identified as racially oppressive or bigoted while simultaneously wanting to distance themselves from Maggie’s helpless, pitiful existence.

Maggie Quotes in Recitatif

The Recitatif quotes below are all either spoken by Maggie or refer to Maggie. 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

I used to dream a lot and almost always the orchard was there. Two acres, four maybe, of these little apple trees. Hundreds of them. Empty and crooked like beggar women when I first came to St. Bonny's but fat with flowers when I left. I don't know why I dreamt about that orchard so much. Nothing really happened there. Nothing all that important, I mean. Just the big girls dancing and playing the radio. Roberta and me watching. Maggie fell down there once.

Related Characters: Twyla (speaker), Roberta, Maggie, The Gar Girls (The Older Girls)
Related Symbols: Dance, The Orchard
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id e

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She wore this really stupid little hat––a kid's hat with ear flaps––and she wasn't much taller than we were. A really awful little hat. Even for a mute, it was dumb––dressing like a kid and never saying anything at all.

Related Characters: Twyla (speaker), Maggie
Page Number: 206
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I didn't kick her; I didn't join in with the gar girls and kick that lady, but I sure did want to. We watched and never tried to help her and never called for help. Maggie was my dancing mother. Deaf, I thought, and dumb. Nobody inside. Nobody who would hear you if you cried in the night. Nobody who could tell you anything important that you could use. Rocking, dancing, swaying as she walked. And when the gar girls pushed her down and started rough-

housing, I knew she wouldn't scream, couldn't—just like me—and I was glad about that.

Related Characters: Twyla (speaker), Maggie, The Gar Girls (The Older Girls)
Related Symbols: Dance, The Orchard
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

"Did I tell you? My mother, she never did stop dancing."
"Yes. You told me. And mine, she never got well." Roberta lifted her hands from the tabletop and covered her face with her palms. When she took them away she really was crying. "Oh, shit, Twyla. Shit, shit, shit. What the hell happened to Maggie?"

Related Characters: Twyla (speaker), Roberta (speaker), Maggie, Mary (Twyla’s Mother), Roberta’s Mother
Related Symbols: Dance
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Maggie Character Timeline in Recitatif

The timeline below shows where the character Maggie appears in Recitatif. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Recitatif
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
...She claims “nothing really happened there,” aside from the older girls dancing. She adds that “Maggie fell down there once,” and explains that Maggie was a bow-legged woman who worked in... (full context)
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Twyla explains that Maggie couldn’t talk; although some of the children say she had her tongue cut out, Twyla... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
...including gym.” However, Twyla and Roberta got along well. Twyla recalls that “the day before Maggie fell down” the girls found out their mothers were coming to visit on the same... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
...husband, Kenneth, and their two servants. Twyla asks Roberta if she remembers the time when Maggie fell down and the gar girls laughed at her. Roberta gravely responds that Maggie didn’t... (full context)
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Twyla has no recollection of Maggie being pushed, but Roberta insists that this is what happened and that she and Twyla... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...never got well. After Roberta goes, Twyla wonders if it’s possible Roberta is right about Maggie. (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...Roberta claims it is hypocritical for Twyla to call her a bigot, considering she kicked Maggie. Twyla is confused, as she is sure that Maggie wasn’t black. She says this to... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...but doesn’t see her. She continues to dwell on the question of whether or not Maggie was actually black. Suddenly it occurs to Twyla that she and Roberta both know the... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...ever met again. Twyla is resistant, but Roberta explains that it’s “about St. Bonny’s and Maggie.” Roberta insists that she really used to think Maggie was black, but now isn’t sure.... (full context)
Friendship vs. Family Theme Icon
Outsiders, Outcasts, and the Unwanted Theme Icon
Sickness and Disability Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Roberta confesses that Twyla was right, that it was only the gar girls who kicked Maggie. However, Roberta adds that she wanted to kick her, and “wanting to is doing it.”... (full context)