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Sins Leave Scars & Recitatif: A Comparison-and-Contrast

Updated on April 22, 2019
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Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Toni Morrison's 'Recitatif' & Cooper, J. California's “A Piece of Mine: Stories,”

Cooper, J. California, (1992). “A Piece of Mine: Stories,”
Cooper, J. California, (1992). “A Piece of Mine: Stories,” | Source

Sins Leave Scars & Recitatif: A Comparison-and-Contrast

The freedom to choose is one of the, if not, greatest gifts of and for man. Free agency and free will is considered by the Holy Writ as the product of the Savior’s atonement for the sins of man. While man enjoys this greatest gift, he however, has no control over the consequences of his choices. This freedom of and consequences of choices are shown in two separate literary pieces: Sins Leave Scars and Recitatif. Sins Leave Scars is one of the many selections in a collection and compilation of J. California Cooper titled A Piece of Mine: Stories released and published sometime in 1992 (Cooper, 1992). The Recitatif was the only publication of a man named Toni Morrison in 1983 ( These two separate stories contain many similarities and differences worthy of analysis and probing. For this purpose, this essay is written to see the connections and disparity; if there be any, in order to understand the significance of individual choices and their corresponding consequences.

Contrasting the Two Essays

The differences of the pieces can be traced in the endings. Sins Leave Scars which feature Lida Mae as the star character has a rather gloomy or dark ending with her looking relatively older than her biological age. Cooper describes her with “the years have passed, and we have really sure nuff got old. Lida Mae looks like she is 150 years old and she is only 45 or so.” She also abused her son whom returned and tried mending all the heartaches of her mother’s past but later gave up because “she took him in, used him, abused him…just tried to use the poor man up! She seemed to be mean, mean, mean!” (Cooper, 1992). In contrast with Recitatif, there was never as period in which the main characters Twyla and Roberta ever had to abuse a family member. Although there was an instance of abuse on the old Maggie in the orchard, she was neither family member nor blood related (Goldstien – Shirley, 1996). Another difference, and this is quite evident, is the presence of a peer support for both Twyla and Roberta. They had support from their mothers and even family members whereas Lida has nobody to cling on to. This set up makes the situation of Lida more interesting and challenging yet her choices has led her to forbidden paths eventually taking a toll on her personality, life, and future.

The consequences of Lida’s actions led from one misery to another yet she has total control of her choices and choosing. This is true even in all the similarities of both literary pieces. Some of the similarities involving free agency can be traced to the mothers of the characters. Lida’s mother Sissy was nothing but a person who chose her personal whims over her family’s needs. Cooper painted Sissy’s picture with the words: “was tired and worn out early from having fun because it seemed every time, she had some fun, she had another baby!” (Cooper, 1992). So Sissy was nothing more but a useless mother who never provided for the needs of her family more so for Lida. This case is almost the same with Twyla and Roberta so much so that the state took them both away at when they were only eight years old. (Goldstein – Shirley, 1996). Having both dysfunctional mothers, both groups of characters feel into forbidden paths due to their youth and lack of guidance. Another similarity is their dependence of men for betterment. Note that Lida had to resort to having an affair with a much older man in the person of Mr. Hammond “because of her fight for survival at the dinner table at home” (Cooper, 1992). In Roberta’s case, perhaps driven by competition from Twyla and a desire to prove something, she resorted to hanging out with “two guys smothered in head and facial hair” and her eventual husband, the IBM executive (Goldstein – Shirley, 1996). All characters can be best described as one in the description made by Cooper for Mr. Hammond ----- “was just a man after all” (1992). Other elements similar to the two are: the economic condition since both are poor if not destitute, their disposition to rely on men for betterment, dysfunctional or missing fathers, detached society, church-going but no sincere intentions of practicing what gospel doctrines they hear, and a desire to speedily develop their condition by any means available. These factors prove useful for Lida momentarily but eventually backfired whereas Roberta seemed to get the most out of her choices although their methods seem similar or the same.

Comparing the Two Essays

The similarities on both stories do not lead to similar paths of effects. Take the case of Lida, while she was abused by the men around her, she allowed her mother’s fate to be similar with hers. Twyla and Roberta worked their way to what they wanted although Twyla was not very successful, compared with Lida she made great strides, more so with Roberta’s. This shows the individual dispositions of the main characters. For Twyla and Roberta used their sorry economic conditions to their advantage. Because of their desire not to return from such sorry state, both women decided to use different approaches to alleviate their present conditions. In the end, they emerged victorious and successful. In Lida’s case, the consequences were grim leading to a state of cyclical misery: from mother to Lida and to her son (Cooper, 1992). All these consequences are beyond their control and each should have used their past as a basis of improvement and personal growth.


The differences and similarities only prove the personal choices of individual authors. Cooper wanted to show that there are people such as Lida Mae who will resort to any measure just to better herself but will never change for the better in the end. Such hypocrisy as manifested in church going but never to have positive change even until the very end is one sad note yet very realistic (Cooper, 1992). Morrison seems to share a similar twist with the argument of both Twyla and Roberta’s mothers even when they were inside the church. The only consolation in the Recitatif was the thought of forgiveness and restitution in the end which never happened in Lida’s case (, 1999). The two pieces serve as wake-up calls to everyone since there are always on the lookout to exploit anyone who are willing to be so. The concept of peer-support is also highlighted to an extent that this may only be the key towards a better life and harmonious relationship with others in the ever regardless of race.


Cooper, J. California, (1992). “A Piece of Mine: Stories,” First Anchor Books Ed. N.p. Retrieved from:

Goldstein-Shirley, David. (1996). "Race/[Gender]: Toni Morrison's 'Recitatif'", Journal of the Short Story in English. 27: 83-95

“Recitatif.” (1999). N.p. Retrieved from:


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