Parallel Lives of Two Different Women

The two girls, Twyla and Roberta, are first introduced to each other at age eight when they are brought to an orphanage in New York.They are immediately alienated from the other orphan girls because their mothers are still living, and their age falls in between that of the others.They quickly become friends and find comfort in each other’s company.They are aware of their racial difference, but it is never an issue for them.

They are very surprised when their mothers meet each other because one mother is hostile toward the other upon first glance.The girls have no idea that they are witnessing racial discrimination for the first time.For them, the battle is against the older girls who bully them, not because anyone is from a different social or racial background.They stick together until they leave the orphanage.

Years later, Twyla and Roberta encounter each other at a diner where Twyla works.Roberta is there with two young men, whom she does not introduce. Roberta’s interaction with Twyla seems cold and distant, as if she’s embarrassed to talk to her.This is the point when Roberta begins to show some differences in her attitude toward race, and Twyla has no idea that it’s happening.There is also a difference between their social classes, as Roberta laughs at the fact that Twyla lives in Newburgh. Twyla is also oblivious to this idea, however she does feel a little embarrassed in her waitressing uniform.

When the women see each other again, it is at a gourmet grocery store.The women are a little older this time, both are married with children.Their social differences are more pronounced now, as Roberta is wearing diamonds and says she lives in a high-income area of town.They ride in her limousine to a coffee shop, where they talk about the past.When Twyla asks Roberta why she snubbed her at the diner, Roberta replied, “Oh, Twyla, you know how it was in those days: black-white. You know how everything was” (Morrison 141).Twyla still did not understand what Roberta was talking about.She still didn’t regard their racial difference as a conflict.

In their next meeting, Roberta’s feelings toward racial differences are clearly defined when Twyla sees her picketing against the movement to integrate public schools.Now Twyla knows that her perspective is much different from Roberta’s, and she feels a need to make her own opinion known.Their conflict ramps up when they begin protesting on opposite sides of the issue, and on opposite sides of the street.The story shifts a little from the conflict being mostly between the two women to being a widespread social issue.There is a lot of resistance to the integration of schools, and fights break out in public.

The women run into each other for the last time in a diner just before Christmas Eve.By now, both women have gotten some life experience and have matured.Twyla believes that Roberta is about to apologize for her past actions and responds by saying, “I’d just as soon not hear anything, Roberta. It doesn’t matter now, anyway” (146).Twyla is trying to make the point that she has grown past the racial discrimination that she experienced.Roberta does not apologize, but explains her reasoning for accusing Twyla of abusing the deaf caregiver at the orphanage.She says that although she and Twyla didn’t physically abuse her; they wanted to, and that’s the same as doing it.They didn’t help the caregiver when she was being abused, and they might as well.

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