When the schools in Newburgh are forced to integrate through the policy of busing, Roberta and other local mothers form a protest. Here Roberta holds a sign “bigger than her mother’s cross” that reads: “MOTHERS HAVE RIGHTS TOO!”. On seeing the sign, Twyla—who has driven past the protest by chance—decides to turn around and eventually forms a counter-protest. During this period of counter-protest, Twyla makes a sign that reads “AND SO DO CHILDREN***,” followed by increasingly erratic signs that only make sense in the context of her and Roberta’s shared experiences.
The protest signs play an important role in the narrative, symbolizing Roberta and Twyla’s transformation from powerless (and in Roberta’s case, illiterate) children to adult women with the ability to publically vocalize their opinions to the world. In particular, Roberta’s identification with motherhood functions as an emphatic (if perhaps unconvincing) statement of her assimilation into the adult world of wealth, influence, and responsibility.
At the same time, the signs also confirm Twyla and Roberta’s fundamental incomprehensibility to the world around them. When reflecting on her friendship with Roberta, Twyla repeatedly remarks that she appreciates Roberta’s ability “not to ask questions.” Rather than interrogating each other, the two children simply accept the facts of each other’s lives, strange as they may be. It is thus significant that Twyla makes cryptic signs that address Roberta, and Roberta alone—but displays these signs in public.
The asterisks after “AND SO DO CHILDREN***,” for example, seem to point to the fact that Roberta is not technically a mother, but rather the stepmother to four children. Later, Roberta makes signs saying “HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?” and, perhaps most absurdly, “IS YOUR MOTHER WELL?”. While having little to do with the protest, this question is a motif with which Roberta and Twyla end each of the conversations they have as adults. While Roberta attempts to use her signs to advertise her maturity and responsibility as an adult, Twyla’s signs insistently remind her of the unstable childhoods of both women.
Protest Signs Quotes in Recitatif
I brought a painted sign in queenly red with huge black letters that said, IS YOUR MOTHER WELL?. Roberta took her lunch break and didn't come back for the rest of the day or any day after. Two days later I stopped going too and couldn't have been missed because nobody understood my signs anyway.