Cultural Issues in Everyday Use Book
The Theme of Cultural Conflict in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use
Every individual has a culture and every culture has a history. Cultural heritage is the expression of how the history of a culture relates to the present. Everyday Use by Alice Walker presents a conflict between a post-slavery African American and her daughter, who fights to distance herself from her mother and embrace African culture. Everyday Use shows the opinions of two classes of people about the value and purpose of cultural heirlooms.
Walker begins the story by developing the characters. Narrating the story is the mother of the two other main characters, Dee and Maggie. The narrator, known as Mama, describes herself as a practical woman capable of everything a man is. She compares herself to a version of herself that she dreams of, where she has fair skin, a shapely figure, and is conventionally attractive. In reality, she is none of these things (Walker 2715).
The dream version of herself is based on her daughter named Dee. Dee, who calls herself “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo,” has embraced her idea of African American cultural heritage. Rejecting her birth name based on the “cultural oppression” (Walker 2718) she opts to use an Africanized name. This distances her from her family, as even her mother has trouble memorizing and pronouncing it (Walker 2718).
When Dee first speaks in the story, she greets her family with an African greeting. Her significant other, known as Hakim-a-barber, greets her family with an Arab greeting. This is confusing to Mama. Hakim-a-barber’s greeting is taken by Mama to be his name, and she mistakes his name for Asalamalakim until she was corrected (Walker 2718). Mama, even though she has the same heritage as Dee, struggles to comprehend the African references that her daughter and her significant other make. Even though she her generation is less removed from Africa, she has done her very best to integrate into American society. On the other hand, Dee has made attempts to embrace African culture that she has never experienced.
Dee is attracted to the homemade, shabby, or otherwise well-worn items in her mother’s house. From the benches they sat on at dinner, to the butter churn, to the dasher. She announces that she wants them to display in her house. She says, “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table,” and “I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher” (Walker 2719). Dee’s purpose for these objects is much different than from how Mama and Maggie use them. To them, the objects are essential parts of life and are used in a utilitarian manner. While they do represent the heritage, Mama and Maggie value their memory of their family and the people who created them as opposed to Dee’s valuation of the culture that led to their creation.
Dee’s materialism distances her from her family. The items that she wishes to use for decoration are important to the daily life of her mother and sister. The climax of the story occurs as Dee asks Mama for a pair of home sewn quilts made by older family members. When Mama mentions that they were promised to Maggie, Dee reveals her true intentions. She says, “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (Walker 2720). This quote, which includes the title of the story highlights the difference in cultural ideals between Dee and her family. Quilts which were sewn for the purpose of warmth are wanted as symbols of her culture to be displayed.
Dee’s rejection of her birth name passed down through her family is, according to her, an attempt to free herself from the shackles of oppression. This makes her attachment to her family’s handmade articles strange, as they could also be considered products of her culture’s oppression. However, her concern for them is not unfounded. Both Mama and Maggie take little care to preserve the articles that they seem to value just as much as Dee. The everyday use of these things would result in them wearing out or being damaged far quicker than preserving and displaying them as decorations.
As someone who received the most education in her family, Dee has a different outlook on life. She seems to be in a better socioeconomic class than her mother, as she and her significant other own a car. To her, it is shocking that family heirlooms would be used and not preserved for future generations. These articles are meaningful to her as a memory of her family and the history of her culture.
Everyday Use presents a contrast between how Dee and her mother embrace their culture. The college-educated Dee wants family heirlooms to be preserved as reminders of the past, while her working-class mother would opt to simply use them for their original purpose. Mama and Maggie, both presented as simple people, are bothered by Dee’s materialistic behavior. While Walker’s writing gives preference to the opinions of Mama and Dee, it allows the reader to have insight into why Dee feels the way she does. As she has advanced herself in life, the things help preserve the memories of the past. However, her family has no need to remember the past; they are still living in it.
Everyday Use Of Remote Sensing
I still remember my very first day to my college because after a long day at college, going back to my PG was so confusing that I entered in many unknown lanes of Kamla Nagar. Lost in a new city, my rescuer was not a man-in-cape but an application in my cell phone. I remember tracing my steps back to my new residence because of a GIS locator application, which I installed a few days back. It pinpointed my location by tracing it back from my timeline, thus guiding me all the way around. Being a geography student I thus, figured that the technology of GIS and Remote Sensing was not limited to my course syllabus and college books but were practically much more than that. Introduction of a technology that was earlier unfamiliar to this world Remote Sensing made a significant change in the past few years.
The technology of remote sensing was earlier known as aerial photography that became popular post-WWII. The term ‘remote sensing’ was initially introduced in 1960. Since the 1960s, there has been a wide range of sensors and other instruments designed to enhance the use of remote sensing. Today, there are many tools that are available for the use of remote sensing in different studies like groundwater exploration, flood mapping, planning and delineation and so on.
This essay will deal with different uses of remote sensing in everyday life. From the most important purposeful data that a remote sensing satellite provides to the everyday entertainment purposes, the list goes on. So, let us discuss in detail the everyday use of remote sensing. The first and foremost operation of remote sensing that saves thousands of lives every day is in the field of Disaster Management. Disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes have a huge impact on life and property and cost billion dollars damage every year. Here comes the role of our scientists and remote sensing satellites that study these weather disturbances and give ample time for people to prepare beforehand. Similarly, many land storms are studied using this technology and help in becoming more resilient to natural disasters. Remote sensing also helps to map disaster-affected regions. With the aerial technology combined the government and rescuers can provide instant aid based on the range of most affected regions to the least affected regions.
Remote sensing satellites can help in the field of environment as well. They can take aerial pictures of soil and can determine the soil moisture content, thereby helping to fix the problems like desertification, soil salinity, etc. They also play an important role in identifying forest lands and tallying the forest resources. It is due to this latest technology of remote sensing, that we found that the evergreen forests are shrinking and their capacity as ‘carbon sinks’ is being hampered. Remote sensing helps to mark the changes that are appearing on daily basis. The problem of climate change is also being assessed using remote sensing satellites where the rise in sea levels is monitored. From the reduction in natural vegetation to the drying of a river, everything is marked and analysed using remote sensing. From the viewpoint of resource geography, this technology is playing a vital role in studying topography and also in studying the land-use/land cover. The latest remark of remote sensing was the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ that helped oceanographers to study the large patch of waste flowing into the ocean and causing damage to marine life. Now, the oceanographers and environmentalists can keep an eye on the floating patch and are working to reduce the level of waste thrown in oceans by continuously assessing the aerial images over the Pacific Ocean.
Remote sensing has been very useful for man to explore the potentially available resources. These resources that are otherwise inaccessible are discovered due to multiple satellite images. These could be oil and natural gas reserves that could be situated far away from land and are detected in the satellite images. The technology of remote sensing has also helped in combating illegal use of resources. It has tracked down unwarranted and unlicensed cutting of evergreen forests or mining of prohibited land and mines. Thus, it has also helped to curb down the illegal activities. Thus, when it comes to marking the changes man-made or natural, the technology of remote sensing has proven to be very efficient and helpful.
Remote sensing isn’t just significant in the above fields but also has been very useful in the field of tourism information. Many satellites track the moment of the migratory birds as well as migrations like wildebeests to areas where they go for breeding, collecting food, etc. As forests are decreasing at a rapid rate this technology comes in handy for not only environmentalists but also the nature enthusiasts. Remote sensing applications in biodiversity are beginning to play a major role in keeping a track on changing biodiversity. With a better resolution of sensors that are being used the growth and extinction of different species can be tracked down easily. Similarly, hydrologists can study the change of water bodies and the way it is affecting the breeding of marine animals. Hence, being very useful for the tourists, environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts, for people who are sports fanatic, remote sensing here too might play an important role for them, as big outdoor matches can be planned according to the game-forecast.
Last, but not the least remote sensing is being used by urban planners across the globe and this use is directly linked to our everyday life. It is the government that is planning a particular town or city which is helping us in tackling the problem of everyday life. For instance, according to the data the Richland country has used advanced Remote Sensing techniques coupled with GIS to create 3D models of the region. They are also using the same technique to monitor the problem of parking by introducing multi-level parking systems and creating various models.
Thus, to conclude Remote Sensing has been playing a vital role in day-to-day life. It is a progressively advancing field and is getting better with each passing day. Today, many researchers are developing a variety of fields to make remote sensing more accessible and reachable to the masses. Because of its versatility, it can be easily manipulated and interpreted by commons too. The use of remote sensing with coming time and its applicability in every field we think of will help man and technology to work simultaneously to develop a better technological world with sustainable development and optimum use of resources.
A Role Of family in Everyday Use by Alice Walker
Everyday Use by Alice Walker is a short story depicting a hard-working black mother, and her two very different daughters. To some, it is a story about a mother finally standing up to an ungrateful daughter; to others, it is a story of heritage. It can also be taken as a story of family, and the dynamics that make up this one. There are the two daughters, Dee and Maggie, whose differences are obvious, and because of that, Mama treats them differently. At the end of this tale, Mama acts very differently herself.
Often times in families, mothers and daughters do not agree. While this is not the direct problem for Mama and her daughters, there are subtle issues between Mama and Dee. Mama loves Dee very much, but Dee wanted “nice things” (257), and has more of an education than her mama. Mama, however, describes herself as “a large, big boned woman with rough, man working hands”(256), who “can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man”(256). Mama admits that she never had an education, but wanted Dee to. She worked hard to provide Dee with a college education, and when Dee comes home for a visit one day, one would think that Dee doesn’t appreciate it; that Dee is simply snobby, and a taker.
The issue arises when Dee and her new beau are visiting and having lunch with Mama and Maggie. Dee begins to ask to take certain things with her when she and Hakim.a.barber depart. Everything Dee requests to take with her, she knows nothing of the heritage behind it. But Maggie does. For while Maggie is the quieter, and more shy of the two sisters, she knows her background, and her family stories; she is proud of them. In all of Dee’s eagerness to leave the house she grew up in and her family behind, she never bothered to learn. Maybe it’s because Dee thought she was better than her family; or maybe she just didn’t care.
So when Dee asks Mama for the quilts, the quilts that, as David White said “have a special meaning to Mama. When she moves up to touch the quilts, she is reaching out to touch the people whom the quilts represent.” Mama tries to talk Dee into taking other things, for she knows that Dee doesn’t really know the family story behind the quilts, nor appreciate it. Mama loves Dee, but for once, she is putting her foot down on this particular subject. As Juan R. Velazquez states:
“Dee, in other words, has moved towards other traditions that go against the traditions and heritage of her own family: she is on a quest to link herself to her African roots and has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. In doing so, in attempting to recover her “ancient” roots, she has at the same time denied, or at least refused to accept, her more immediate heritage, the heritage that her mother and sister share.”
This story is full of symbolism, with the quilts being a good focal point. They mean something to Maggie and Mama, for they realize their immediate background behind them. Those quilts are practically family heirloom, and that’s something that Dee just doesn’t seem to understand. While Dee may be educated, becoming “cultured” and “going back to her roots”, she never bothered to learn about or appreciate her past that was right there in her home, as Maggie did. That is why, in the end, Mama stood up to Dee, and refused to let her have the quilts. Mama gave the quilts to Maggie, the daughter who didn’t really get as much as Dee, and wasn’t as “educated” as Dee, but she would certainly appreciate the quilts more, and put to everyday use. It was made by the family with love, to be used by the family with love, not to just hang somewhere, as Dee planned to do with them. Also, Maggie has literally been burned before; perhaps Mama felt guilt and realized that Maggie always grew up in Dee’s shadows, and that her youngest deserved nice things, too.
A family is what makes up a home; and Dee failed to realize that. She successfully got out and “did better” for herself, but in the end, never really learned about the people behind her that in one way or another helped her get there.
Religious Ideas in “Everyday Use”
According to feminist theory, cultural definitions of gender roles can be patriarchal or antipatriarchal (Tyson, 83-86). In the short story “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker depicts her characters’ gender roles as antipatriarchal in the feminist theory context. Specifically, this idea is present in Mama’s physical appearance, the activities she partakes in, and her refusal to submit to authoritative figures. In addition, Walker positively depicts antipatriarchal ideology through the character of Mama, especially when she violates traditional patriarchal gender roles.
Feminist theory examines the ways in which identity is molded by the cultural definitions of gender roles. According to feminist theory, there are two types of ideologies, patriarchal and antipatriarchal. In patriarchal societies, men hold all or most positions of power, while women are oppressed and have little opportunity. Patriarchal gender roles are very traditional, meaning that men are masculine, strong, powerful providers, though sometimes violent; and women tend to be feminine, submissive, nurturing, and motherly. Patriarchal thought praises individuals who embody these characteristics and condemns those who challenge them, while antipatriarchal philosophy does just the opposite (Tyson 83-85).
In “Everyday Use,” Mama takes on the roles of the man of the house and is praised for doing so, reflecting antipatriarchal ideas in the text (Tyson 99). She has no male provider, but Mama works hard to care for her family. She takes on the role of the head of the house and tends to stereotypically masculine duties, embodying the traditional gender roles of a man.
The opening line of the story is, “I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon,” (Walker 274) and immediately paints a picture of Mama’s ability to do manual labor. Walker goes on to illustrate the importance of keeping a good, clean yard, as it is “like an extended living room” (Walker 274), thereby praising Mama for her efforts.
The strong, violent nature of traditional male gender roles is evident in Mama. In the text she describes some of the activities she partakes in:“I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man…I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire in minutes after it comes steaming from the hog. One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall” (275).
Mama’s actions and her success in performing traditionally male duties to provide for her family require her to be powerful, both physically and emotionally, and force her to embrace a violent nature, rather than a motherly, nurturing one.
Mama’s physical appearance is also very masculine. She refers to herself as “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands” (275) who chews tobacco and wears overalls to work in during the day and pajamas made of flannel at night, which are clothes generally worn by working men. in the story, Walker suggests that Mama does not think of herself as beautiful. She believes her daughter would like her to be “a hundred pounds lighter… [with] skin like an uncooked barley pancake” (275). Rather than be oppressed by these patriarchal ideas of society, Mama rises above them, and is confident of what she is able to accomplish on her own.
In “Everyday Use”, Dee also embodies masculine roles by taking the place of Mama’s absent husband. Dee attends school and is well educated, a freedom rarely attained by women during that time. She refuses to be “oppressed” by a name that was given to her family by slave owners, which cause her to reject her heritage and feel a sense of superiority over her family. Dee believes she is entitled to the family quilts because she is educated. However, Mama believes otherwise.
Mama claims to have already promised Dee’s desired quilts to Maggie. Dee argues that Maggie cannot appreciate them and therefore she fights for the “priceless” artifacts. Atypical of patriarchal society, Mama refuses to submit to Dee, who is a masculine figure. In stories with a more patriarchal point of view, women are often forced to give in to authoritative tormenters, but Mama takes stands up for herself.
By applying feminist theory to Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” it is possible to examine the cultural definitions of gender roles as formed by patriarchal or antipatriarchal ideas. In the short story, Mama participates in activities typically performed by men, has a traditionally masculine physical appearance, and refuses to submit to authoritative figures. According to traditional patriarchal ideology, mothers should should be feminine, nurturing, motherly, and submissive, yet Walker depicts Mamas just the opposite. Mama defies everything a traditional woman should be, according to patriarchal beliefs, but Walker celebrates her. Therefore, “Everyday Use” exemplifies antipatriarchal ideology.
Tyson, Lois. “Using Concepts from Feminist Theory to Understand Literature.” Learning for a
Diverse World: Using Critical Theory to Read and Write about Literature. New York, NY: Routledge, 2001. 83-85. Print.
Walker, Alice. “Everday Use.” Learning For a Diverse World: Using Critical Theory to Read and Write about Literature. Ed. Lois Tyson. New York, NY: Routledge, 2001. 274-81. Print.
Alice Walker’s Description of the Idea of the Household as Illustrated in Her Book, Everyday Use
The Heritage of the House
In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, Dee’s negative attitude towards the Johnson’s household reflects her ashamed views of her family and their interpretation of heritage.
The descriptions of the house portrayed by Mama, Maggie, and Dee distinguish how different their lifestyles are, and how they affect Dee’s perception of her family. Initially, the yard of the house is described as “more comfortable than most people know…like an extended living room” by Mama, the narrator (1226). Its homeliness is brought upon by the extensive care of the yard taken by Maggie and Mama, who had “made [it] so clean and wavy” (1226). They look at the yard as a place of solace and protection from the outside world. However, the narrator comes to the sudden realization, before Dee’s arrival, that, “No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down. She wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends” (1228). The distinction between the narrator’s care for the home and Dee’s disdain reveal Dee’s feelings of shame and disappointment. Whereas Maggie and Mama take great pride in keeping the house clean, Dee looks down upon the house’s condition, just as she does the family, when she says, “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama live, you’d never know it” (1232). The contrast between Dee’s modern thinking, with her polaroid and new name, and Maggie and Mama’s traditional views make it harder for Dee to accept the household she has grown up in, and causes further distance within the family.
Set after the Black Power movement in the 1970s, “Everyday Use” captures the misguided value of heritage Dee places on the house. For instance, when she first arrives at the house and starts taking picture with her Polaroid, Dee “never takes a shot without making sure the house is included” (1229). From the beginning, Walker makes it clear that this home is a very essential part of Dee’s memories of her family, despite her embarrassment of their living conditions. However, Dee’s interest in the house’s history and antiquity turns solely materialistic, when she exclaims, “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table” and, in reference to her Grandma’s quilts, says she will “Hang them…As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts” (1231, 1232). The house is used as a device to fulfill Dee’s false sense of heritage, where she feels the need to connect with her roots as a black woman. Again, Dee’s modern Black Power views clash with her mother’s traditional views, when Mama refuses to give Dee the quilts and she declares, “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!…She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (1231). The conflict furthers between the family when Mama asks, “‘What don’t I understand?’ I wanted to know. ‘Your heritage.’ [Dee] said” (1232). Dee’s misinterpretation of culture represents the time period the Johnsons live in, where black people would take pride in their ancestors and their inheritance.
The Johnson’s household is a device used by Walker to explain the obvious difference between Dee and the rest of her family. Their different perceptions of the house make Dee’s role in the family clear and explain why she is so distant. Dee tries to maintain her culture through various means, such as changing her name or using family heirlooms to re-establish her connection with the black culture, however Maggie and Mama do not feel inclined to re-evaluate what it means to be a black individual. The distinction between their values illustrate the different values experienced by the generation gap in the confusing time after the Civil Rights movement.
Alice Walker – “Everyday Use”
Everyday Use is told in mama point of view. The author starts of by describing the her as “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man working hands.” Mama has two daughters, the younger daughter is named Maggie. she is described as a shy, quiet, and sensitive girl, and out of the two daughters, Maggie is the more traditional girl who plans to get married soon. Dee is the oldest daughter who is described as having a lot of confidence, she is intelligent and very well driven. The story begins as Mama and Maggie wait for Dee to return, Dee had left mama to get an education and make a name for herself. As both Mama and Maggie wait for Dee, the author give us more details about Mama’s life and her relationship with Dee. We see that Dee has always wanted more than her family history or her mom could provide for her. Everything she was able to acquire with all her accomplishments came at the expense of her mother and little sister.
When Dee shows up, she is wearing African clothing and is accompanied by a young man named, Hakim-a-barber, who is her boyfriend. Mama is disappointed by the man refers to him as “Asalamalakim,” she is also disappointed in Dee’s appearance. They say their greeting and all that, that’s when Dee says she rather be called her new name, Wanhero (an African name), to protest those who have oppressed her. Their presence there was not intended on connecting with Mama or Maggie, Dee and her boyfriend where here to search through
Author’s Craft Essay on Everyday Use by Alice Walker
The Author’s craft among the story “Everyday Use” uses transition and flashbacks as a result of throughout the story someone is either puzzling over the past or puzzling over the long run.
In ‘Everyday Use,’ Alice Walker stresses the importance of the main character’s heritage. She employs varied ways that during which to reveal many aspects of heritage that unit of measurement otherwise arduous to be noticed. In the story, she introduces a pair of sisters with nearly opposite personalities and altogether completely different views on heritage: Maggie and Dee. She uses the excellence between the two sisters signifies but one got to accept and preserve one’s heritage. On the so much aspect, the excellence between a pair of sisters there exists the decide figure mama, the teller, and additionally Dee’s irony.
The irony of Dee’s opinion is that the key to understanding the story and why the mother let Maggie keep the quilts, that symbolize the heritage. Another example of Dee’s confusion relating to her own African-American heritage is expressed once she announces to her mother and sister that she has changed her name to ‘Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo.’ once her mother queries her relating to the change, Dee says, ‘I couldn’t bear it to any extent additional being named once the parents that oppress me”. In step together with her mother, the name has been among the family since before the war and presumptively represents family unity to her.
However, Dee does not perceive that. Apparently, she believes that by dynamic her name she is expressing commonness together with her African ancestors and rejecting the oppression understood by the fascinating of yank names by black slaves. Walker’s browse is unbelievably clear at the tip of the story. By Dee desperate to droop the family heirloom on the wall to look at from a distance, she is antagonistic herself from her family heritage. That is exactly what Walker thinks is that the incorrect issue to do and do. Walker would favor the quilts to be used and integrated into existence, like Maggie and her mother like. An identical set up applies to all or any or any of the alternative home things that Dee has her eye on the churn high, dasher, and benches for the table that her begetter created. All of the units of measurement a part of life for Maggie and her mother. Walker believes that the only real value that they hold for Dee is that they may be sensible trinkets to signifiy off in her house.
By exploitation the quilts throughout this symbolic manner, Walker is making the aim that family heirlooms can entirely have which means if they still are connected to the culture they sprang from – in essence, to be placed to ‘Everyday Use.’ It is not correct to want sides to come to a decision on between Mama and Dee. Every one of the units of measurement corrects and each of the units of measurement wrong once it involves specific areas of their lives and their worldview. Mama cannot force her daughters to be like her – uneducated and living in a mud hut. On the alternative hand, it’s wrong for Dee to chop back everything into intellectual writing. She knew the worth of the quilts from a historical and analytical perspective but she is unable to signify her mother and sister what amount she respects the spiritual and emotional price of those quilts. every mother and feminine offspring ought to learn to live among this time whereas not forgetting where they came from.
The variations in perspective that Dee and Maggie portray relating to their heritage unit of measurement seen early among the story. once the family’s house burned down ten or twelve years were gone, Maggie was deeply packed with the tragedy of losing her home where she grew up. Dee, on the alternative hand, detested the house. Her mother had wanted to boost her, ‘Why don’t you dance around the ashes’. Dee did not hold any significance in the house where she had big up.
Essay on Social Conflicts in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use
Everyday Use is a masterpiece novel written by African American writer Alice Walker, being published in 1973. The highlighted perspective of the social conflicts in marginalized members of the society, like females and colored people, has earned the novel great popularity for both readers and critics. Due to its value in sociology, various scholars have performed related academic researches on the novel.
The story centres around an African American mother and her two children, Dee and Maggie, who possess traits and personalities in sharp contrast. Dee, who later changed her name to Wangero (due to her refusal to be named after the people who oppressed her people), is a stylish girl who has received college education. Maggie is a shy girl who has low education and self-esteem, and she does not seem to understand the way Dee acts, just like her mother. The Name of Dee: her pursuit for Civil Rights and her cultural heritage The Civil Rights movement of African Americans initiated as a series of protests against legally enforced segregation based on the ideology of white supremacy and black inferiority, starting from the 1900s. The Black community then embarked on a journey on pursuit for equality in the United States for almost 90 years.
In the novel, one of the notable acts of Dee is her change of her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, which she believes is an African name that reflects her cultural heritage. Names exist as a crucial part of a Civil Rights campaign, as the imposing and acceptance of a name can reflect an individual’s own cultural identity, on whether if an individual accepts oneself as a “Negro slave”, a “Black person” or an African America. The name Dee was given to her ancestors by the white American slave masters who shipped and enslaved the ancestors of Wangero, so she no longer accepted herself being called Dee after learning about the history, possibly through her college education. A conflict in this case would be the pragmatism and ease in addressing Wangero by her simple European-rooted name Dee and idealism of cultural preservation by using the long, African-rooted name Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, just like any other conflicts between pragmatism and idealism in the essay. However, despite Mama’s initial discomfort of the name changing, she ultimately decided to respect her child’s will, thus made attempts in addressing her child and her partners by their African-rooted names.
An irony of the name changing act is that Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo is not a typical African name in itself. The closest connection of the name with Africa is that it may be a name from East African origin, which may not be the accurate origin of Dee. Therefore, it is speculated that Dee only has superficial knowledge of African culture, despite her vain attempt in retrieving her cultural heritage. A blunt criticism of her actions is that Wangero, as an individual raised as an American, has made a series of actions to “become” African, which cannot achieve any success other than making her a “phony”. There shows the partially agreement with such criticism: the fact can be respected that Wangero has enough cultural awareness, which drives her to make efforts in cultural preservation. However, her superficial knowledge of her cultural roots may not make her a competent individual in cultural preservation. Therefore, she may need to experience the culture of Africa, by actually live in Africa for a period of time. In this way, she can have the chance to experience the culture from the African perspective, but not from the perspective of “White America”.
The novel entered another area of main theme, as Wangero requested to her mother for the ownership of 2 quilts after dinner. However, Mama refused to give her the quilts, as Mama believed that Wangero would not use the quilts properly for pragmatic usages. Wangero wanted the quilts for the idealism purpose of cultural preservation, and she believes that it would be wasteful and “backward” to apply the quilts to “everyday” pragmatic use. Therefore, another conflict happens in the household of Mama, between the pragmatic “everyday use” of quilts as an item to keep an individual warm and the idealism of the item as a form of cultural perseverance. This can be considered the central part and climax of the novel, which is coherent to the novel title, where the ideological debate centering “everyday use” begins. It is understandable why Wangero finds value in the quilts. She has lived in the urban areas, where everything is mass produced, thus she finds handmade items unique, rich in culture and artistic. However, she neglects the fact that culture actually originates from everyday lives, and that her family is already preserving the culture by keep producing and using the quilts. She may have overly idealistic concept of culture, where culture must be high class and formally worshipped, and have neglected the fact that culture is already being preserved healthily if it is pragmatically applied to the “everyday use” of the people.
On the other hand, it is ironic how Wangero used to despise the quilts as items of “out of style”, before she received college education. There is possibility that Wangero has learnt about the cultural heritage of her African roots in college, thus she started to reevaluate the cultural value of quilts. This leaves room for thought: has the education she received enhanced her cultural awareness or distorted her views on what culture is?
The author has offered the world, especially to the people of color, food for thought through this short story, yet sophisticated piece. It has triggered the people of color to rethink and reevaluate the value of their cultural heritage. Should one just follow the mainstream culture of the society blindly for pragmatic purposes, or should one strive to preserve one’s own cultural roots, despite how difficult it may seem? This leaves substantial room for debate and discussion in the academic world, since its publication in 1973. It can be anticipated there will be more discussion to come in the future, along with the emerging and monotonous phenomenon of “globalization”.
Analysis of Alice Walker’s essay “Everyday Use” in Reference to the Idea of Power and Responsibility within Family
Family is one of the most demonstrative social groups, where people related by kinship interact within complex relations of authority and power division. In well-balanced families, each member tries too use his/her authority not only for own benefit but also for the benefit of the others.
Such attitude forms the basis of responsible treatment among family members. However, in cases of disunited families, certain members employ their power for their own benefit, disregarding the needs of their relatives. An example of this can be found in Alice Walker’s essay “Everyday Use”, where the older sister uses her natural charisma and brightness to achieve personal success, irresponsibly neglecting her less advanced kin.
The dramatic contrast between Dee (or Wangero, as she chooses to call herself) and her mother and sister Maggie is revealed already on the level of appearance.
According to her mother’s description, Dee is good-looking and stylish. She has been demanding “nice things”, such as stylish matching clothes already since her teen age and has been aware of the power rendered by looks: “At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (Walker 451). Her limbs are perfectly shaped, which allows her mother to recognize her only catching a small glimpse of her leg stepping out of the car: “…even the first glimpse of leg out of the car tells me it is Dee.
Her feet were always neat-looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style” (Walker 451). Her mother, “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands”, and Maggie, all mutilated by “burn scars down her arms and legs”, are no-match to Dee’s ostensible beauty (Walker 449–450).
Adding to the outward contrast is the discrepancy between the characters and bearings of the three women. Dee is all self-assurance; she knows her strong sides, such as general brightness and scholarship. Therefore, she is determined to achieve success; and knowing it is in her power, she would not bend down before anyone: “She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature. […] She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts” (Walker 450).
On the contrary, her uneducated mother would never look “a strange white man in the eye”; and Maggie, though undertaking attempts at reading, “knows she is not bright”, which makes her even more shy and timid (Walker 451). Maggie is opposed to Dee in her hopeless misery, “chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle”, fearful and bit envious of her sister’s self-confidence and ostentatious grandeur (Walker 450).
Against the background of such contraposition between success and failure, the more revealing appears the fact that Dee, in her shallow vanity, never uses her natural powers to support her family. Instead of carefully encouraging her mother’s and sister’s hankering after knowledge, she humiliates them by her arrogant disdain: “She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know.
Pressed us to her with the serf’ oust way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand” (Walker 450). No wonder her motives for taking away the historical quilts — simply to hang them in her designer parlor — appear absurd to her practically-oriented mother, who has planned to give them as dowry to be practically used by her younger daughter.
At this culmination point of extreme tension between Dee’s pseudo-refinement and her mother’s claim to common sense, Maggie unexpectedly reveals her power of wisdom by saying that she would remember her ancestors even without any quilts (Walker 454). This statement of Maggie’s inner power provokes her mother to exercise her authority and stop Dee from plundering the house which she has never respected, loved or devoted her effort to.
Any power presupposes certain degree of responsibility from its owner. In case with Dee, who has both the looks and the brains to achieve success, this power is misused. Not only does she neglect her family, but she also runs counter to her mother’s will and disrespects her parent’s authority.
Punishment for such outrageous behavior does not take long to come: the usually timid and miserable Maggie reveals her inner moral strength which inspires her mother to protect their right for preserving family heritage the way they considered it best.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 3rd ed. Eds. Missy James and Alan P. Merickel. Pearson, 2007. 449–455. Print.
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker Critical Analysis Research Paper
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, which depicts the situation of a rural American south family, is one of the widely studied and regularly anthologized short stories. The story is set in a family house in a pasture and it is about an African-American mother, “Mama Johnson,” and her two daughters, Maggie and Dee.
Mama, who grew up during the early twentieth century, is the main character in the story since she narrates it. She is portrayed as struggling to embrace the culture of her daughter Dee. Dee got an advanced education in Augusta Georgia before moving to work in an urban set up. Maggie, who is portrayed as the less fortunate one, stayed with her mother while Dee was going to school. The author uses her talent in writing to illustrate the difficulties encountered by African-Americans, particularly those of the females.
Currently, there are marked similarities and differences between families living now and those who lived in the past. Although there may be disparity in setting, several family issues as well as situations are similar. In addition, most families still cherish and hold certain things sacred. An example of these is culture. In this present world, most households are still interested in knowing the background they came from.
This is inclusive to both parents and their children. However, it is important to note that the significance of culture to a family is varied. A number of people take the position that their actions are dictated by their ancestral traits. For instance, a person may perceive that he or she may have inherited a character trait such as being cunning from a past relative. Even though, some other individuals have not developed the interest of knowing their family backgrounds.
The representation of family backgrounds in “Everyday Use” is what makes this literary work unique and worthwhile. As Walker intertwines a story about the African culture and its role in one family’s life, she succeeds in portraying it differently through the eyes of Mama’s daughters.
Both Maggie and Dee (Wangero) have contrasting traits and both hold diverse viewpoints regarding the quilts. Mama serves the purpose of connecting her two daughters. Nevertheless, she is depicted to be closer to Maggie. This is because the two have similar behavioral traits.
Maggie and her mother hold the opinion that ones culture is based on a foundation of inherited objects as well as methods of thinking. On the other hand, Dee views culture as something that is no longer relevant in the modern society since it has been washed away by history.
The most central point is that the culture depicted in the short story is focused on learning and education. More so, the thoughts possessed by the different characters played a pivotal role in shaping the culture they depended on. Therefore, the varied viewpoints concerning African American culture result in the tension evident throughout the short story.
By the use of the technique of contrasting the characters and their opinions in the story, the author succeeds in demonstrating the significance of comprehending our present life in relation to the culture that our own people practiced in the past.
Through calculated descriptions and attitudes, the author illustrates the factors that have a say in the values of an individual’s heritage and culture. Walker shows that they cannot be symbolized through the possession of objects or mere appearances. She emphasizes that the lifestyle and attitudes of an individual are the ones capable of symbolizing them.
In the short story, the author personifies the various aspects of culture and heritage. She achieves this in portraying the contrast between Dee and her mother. Mrs. Johnson and Maggie can be said to represent the relationship between generations and culture that passed between them since their actions are based on traditions and what they learnt from their past ancestors.
The author also represents Maggie as a type of culture to her mother herself, and the traditions were passed to her through teaching. As Dee’s mother makes it clear to her, Maggie is conversant with her heritage, “She can always make some more; Maggie knows how to quilt” (Missy and Merickel, 454).
However, it is interesting that Dee does not take the initiative to know whether her sister is able to make quilt. Maggie demonstrates the trait of vulnerability. This makes her to be extremely uncomfortable through her inward and outward appearance. Maggie’s actions demonstrate how she is self-conscious. As Mama puts it, “She will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs” (Missy and Merickel, 449). Most of the time, Maggie liked to keep to herself and follow instructions.
In the story, both Mama and Maggie are portrayed to be living in a run-down home and both of them were not educated in schools. They claim to have received teaching by means of another tradition assisted by their ancestors. The learning they received from their surroundings is out of reach of the present day society. Although Mrs. Johnson had few intentions of pursuing further education just like her daughter, Dee, she only managed to reach second grade (Missy and Merickel, 451).
Nonetheless, she seems to be contented with her own education, which she had acquired from the ancestors. Maggie just adhered to what she was told, chose to stay where she was born, and envied his sister’s outward appearance. By living with her mother, she learnt the skills of life by means of the experiences of her ancestors. Her mother also taught her some traditions.
Culture through the traits of Dee is depicted in a different way from her mother and sister. Dee represents culture in the materialistic and complex context, which ought to be observed and looked upon, but not experienced. The way Dee handles herself is enough to shed more light on her perception about culture and heritage. As the story starts, the narrator takes time to tell the reader how the two sisters were different from one another.
Dee is described as “lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure” (Missy and Merickel, 450). Mama says that she is self-assured and beautiful. These attributes differentiates her from Maggie and Mrs. Johnson who were scared and rough respectively. Dee was known to portray a different character, “She wanted nice things. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (Missy and Merickel, 450-451).
She pursued further education away from her homeland. This depicts her as wanting to reach to the society in order to be famous. Mama was aware of the determination of her daughter, “She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time” (Missy and Merickel, 450-451).
During the visit, which stood for her misconception on heritage and culture, Dee endeavored to reconnect with her traditional roots (Cowart, 180). The visit took place during the period of emerging black awareness and empowerment. Since it had taken years before coming home, she embraced the new lingo and style that was demonstrated by the modernized black women then.
She accompanied herself with a partner called by an Islamic name, Asalamalakim. Moreover, she now prefers to be called Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Here, the reader gets a sense of the disappointing behavior of Dede to her close relations. One anticipates that she will come back to herself before the culmination of the short story in order to realize her mistake.
To welcome her daughter home, Mama has prepared various delicacies. Among the various foods prepared, Dee’s partner did not prefer to consume collards and regarded pork as not clean. However, the others consumed everything. After sometime, Dee started to trouble her mother with various questions pertaining to the household furnishings, their value, as well as their age. The household cherished pictures that were taken in front of the home.
The churn top, which was constructed by Dee’s late uncle, served a historical purpose in the household. Dee considers these items as part of her culture. However, she did not think of them in that perspective while she was growing up. Her perception then was meant to illustrate how she is rooted in her culture.
It was to give an indication to her family members as well as her to her so-called friends, “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table, and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher” (Missy and Merickel, 453). Mrs. Johnson gave permission for her daughter to take these items because she did not consider them as valuable as the quilts.
The peak of the story comes when Dee demands the quilts from her mother. She preferred the old handmaid quilts to the ones stitched by machine. Since the quilts were promised to Maggie when she will eventually marry John Thomas, her mother tried to persuade her to go for the newer ones.
After these arguments, Dee becomes angry and childish, and cries out that her sister will not be able to appreciate the old quilts. She says that Maggie would probably be “backward enough to put them to everyday use!” (Missy and Merickel, 454).For this reason, the title of the story reads “Everyday Use.” By this statement, Walker presents her unique argument whether or not culture ought to be safeguarded and displayed or incorporated into everyday life. A reader can assume that the phrase “Everyday life” relates only to the argument about the quilt.
However, deeper reading within the short story reveals that it concerns people’s culture and heritage and how they make the decision to preserve it or not. In the story, the author developed a critique of postmodern ideals. She also illustrates the detachable nature of symbols. In proposing to hang the quilts, Wangero would be taking them away from their “everyday” use. Therefore, their embedded contextual meaning would be lost.
Mrs. Johnson stood by her decision. Thereafter, Dee and her supposed boyfriend or husband leaves the home. This illustrates another central theme in the story: standing up for the right thing no matter the consequences. This should not be just for oneself, but for others also.
This is demonstrated by the way Mama stood by her decision not to let Wangero go with the handmaid quilts. Mrs. Johnson understood how much Maggie valued the quilts. She also understood that Wangero simply wanted the family belongings so as to keep up with the new African fashion.
Moreover, Dee just wanted to be popular. That is why she even changed her name, which was not the case when she was growing up. As the two visitors leave, Dee laments that Mrs. Johnson does not understand her own heritage. Dee also proposes to her sister to strive to make something out of herself. Eventually, Mama and Maggie, relieved, gaze at the car as it leaves. They then spend time together dipping snuff and they become conscious of the fact that they are the ones enjoying their lives as well as their cherished heritage.
The misunderstanding that is evident between Dee and Maggie concerning the right ownership of the quilts and their use is essential to the theme of the story. By this, the author is “arguing that the responsibility for defining African-American heritage should not be left to the Black Power movement (White, para.16). Walker effectively argues that the Black Americans ought to take responsibility of their whole heritage, even the parts that seem to be hurting.
Mrs. Johnson symbolizes most of the African-Americans who did not know how to match their past with the civil rights movements that took place in the 1960s (Hoel, para.2). During that time, most Blacks were not at ease with the Black Power movement solution. The technique that the author uses to challenge the African-Americans to respect their heritage is what helps to define this piece of work as a literature of importance.
“Everyday Use” is an exact symbolization of the way of life of most Black Americans in the modern society. Among them, there are those who despise their history and pay less attention to their unprivileged peers. More so, they attempt to be popular and look for wealth in the capitalist world, which entails assertiveness and opportunism.
On the other hand, the rural south is slow and they esteem the importance of the family and culture. The conservative rural folks find it difficult to embrace the extremes of urbanism. At the same time, however, those who abandoned the traditional black culture are still trying to hold on it. They achieve this by having cultural artifacts, antiques, as well as souvenirs.
Walker uniquely presents this scenario in the short story, which is about African-American identity crisis and the place of their culture and values in the modern society.
Through the story, the author illustrates that it is impossible to change ones culture. This is because an individual’s culture and heritage are passed on from one generation to the next. It cannot be acquired or, worse still, picked up all of a sudden. Therefore, Walker’s point is clear: An individual who holds real heritage and culture is obliged to apply it each day of his or her life on earth.
Cowart, David.”Heritage and Declaration in Walker’s ‘Everyday Use.’” Studies in Short Fiction 33 (1996): 171-84. Print.
Hoel, Helga. “Personal names and heritage: Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use.”
Home. Online. Trondheim Cathedral School. 2009. Web.
Missy, James, and Alan, Merickel P. Reading Literature and writing argument, 3 ed. New York: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.
White, David. “’Everyday Use’: Defining African-American Heritage.” Anniina’s Alice Walker Page. 19 Sept. 2002. Web. http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/alicew/davidwhite.htm
Further Study: FAQ
? What is the Everyday Use summary?
In Everyday Use story, a mother describes her relationships with her daughter named Dee. Dee, an educated African American woman, visits her hometown located in the Deep South. The conflict between her and her sister Maggie is the central conflict of the story.
? What is the purpose of Everyday Use by Alice Walker?
The purpose of Everyday Use is to show the challenge of the Black Power Movement, black people in general. It demonstrates their heritage, which is penetrated with the stories of pain, unjust treatment, and humiliation.
? What is the Everyday Use setting?
The story takes place in rural Georgia in the early 1970s. During this time, the Black Power Movement emerged. Black people were trying to reconcile their ideas about being Americans and being black.
? What do the quilts symbolize in Everyday Use?
The quilt symbolizes the creativity and resourcefulness of African American women. It also symbolizes the bond between different generations of women in African American families and the community in general.