A Plot Of Everyday Use By Alice Walker
In the short story Everyday Use by Alice Walker is a glimpse into the lives of three women and how things matter differently to each of them. The narrator, Maggie’s mother, and Maggie see the artifacts described in the story as everyday things. They use many of them in their everyday life and do not give them anymore significance than that of any other item they use. The sister Dee or Wangero has gone off from the family and has gotten some level of higher education. She comes home for the first time in a while with a male friend, Hakim-a-barber. They never tell if they are married or not. Dee grew up hating everything in their home as well as their old house. She used to be very into what was in style at the time and what was not. Now it would appear she has learned the historical, sentimental value of the things in her old home. She now wants the hand caved churn top and dasher from the butter churn in her mother’s house as well as the handed quilts that her Aunt and Grandmother made from scraps of her grandparent’s clothes. For Dee the quilts held significant heritage and she wanted to protect them. Maggie’s mother had already promised the quilts to her though for when she was married. They would have been used as an everyday item in Maggie’s house. The reader does learn though that Maggie does have a sentimental attachment to the quilts when she comments that she will remember her grandmother without them. She could always make more since her grandmother taught her how to quilt.
The narrator (Maggie’s mother) is probably in her late forties to early fifties at the time this story is written. She grew up doing what she calls man work, working outside with livestock. She tells us she is not a fancy woman and spends most of her life outside in work clothes. She is a church going woman, is African American, and came from slaves. This causes her to see things as useful or not. She only has up to a second grade education because her school shut down so she does what she can. The artifacts to her are everyday items; they were carved or sewn by past family members and made to last. Maggie on the other hand is the younger daughter. She is a little slow and is very shy around strange, new people. She lives her life like her mother, working hard on their property. Like her mother most of the artifacts to her are just things they use. Maggie has a very sharp memory and remembers everything it seems, from who carved what piece that is in use to how she can remember her past family members without a blanket. This does though give her a more sentimental attachment to them than her mother had. Dee was the oldest child, growing up she didn’t have the respect for the items she does now. In the time frame of this story, the Civil Rights movement had reached a head ten years prior. She had gone off to school and came back to realize the value of the heritage that came with these artifacts. All of them viewed the artifacts with different levels of sentimentality, from Maggie’s mother seeing them as useful, everyday items, to Dee screaming that they were priceless and needed to be cared for.
Maggie and her mother were more than likely living in the south and very poor. They are a part of a church and have their own house and property to take care of. They know how their family was started and continue to do the same kind of hard work to support themselves. They both seem to have decided that where they are is where they belong and are happy.
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