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.
Comparison of “Two Kinds” and “Everyday Use” Essay
Thesis and Introduction
The nineteenth century is remembered for its riches in literature and art. Stimulated by the activity in development and implementation of ideology, literature has seen a tremendous growth in both quality and number of stories poems and narratives. The thematic trend was complied with the sociopolitical environment and after war mood.
The increased number of civil rights activists and critics led to a wide spread bias against certain themes such as conflict and culture. To interrogate this thematic similarity and bias I shall interrogate two stories from two different authors (Barnet and Cain p 345-500).
Alice walker’s “Every Day” use tells the story of cultural social and ethnic conflict that is motivated by a conflict of ideas morals and values. Dee rejects the mainstream cultural pretext and proceeds to affiliate herself with a personalized and rather unaccepted heritage.
She fails to obey family traditions and heritage as a way of cutting back at the family history of oppression that she considers offensive and unacceptable.
The conflict between her new constructed culture and the tradition and culture that mama was brought up to know is an aftermath of the general mood of society after the effects of war and conflict that led to corruption of both morals and cultures.
Amidst many other themes such as power of education and women empowerment, the story makes an adequate disposition of conflict in the domestic arena as a representative sample of the conflict that was taking place at the time across the globe. The conflict in culture was mainly due to the difficulties that immigrants faced in embracing cultural transition. Dee was making an attempt at adjusting and transitioning to the new culture (p 50).
Amy tan on the other hand makes a rather detailed account of similar conflict and problems of cultural transition. She develops it based on two main dimensions. The internal conflict is one of cultural confusion that is motivated by varying standards of expectation.
Jing-mei looks into the mirror in frustration after her ambitious mother who had high hopes of her making it through in the new cultural context gave her tests that she could not apprehend because she had not learnt them her mother’s aggressiveness is her bid to divorce the cultural attitude towards women and she saw a great opportunity for her daughter (p3-8).
On the alternate end the cultural external conflict that is characterized by cultural transition is represented by daughters perception of their mothers broken English as stupid and the mothers on the other hand being impatient with their female children’s ability to perceive of cultural nuances of their native Chinese language and culture to their children. Cultural conflict and transition places these two stories on a common thematic realm.
“Every Day” use is a story that captures the tumultuous period of afro Americans struggle to embrace and adjust to the social cultural and political values of the American society in the 1960s and early 70s. This period was characterized by a sudden interest in the American contribution in the American history buy both literature enthusiasts and literary scientist.
This period saw many black Americans make attempts at recognition in the political social and economic realm. The story therefore reflects this mood of cultural struggle that was motivated by the bleak history of slavery and slave trade. The story is developed amidst an ideological era that saw the rise and fall of many ideological regimes some peaceful and others violent (Harmon and Hugh, p 105).
“Two Kinds” on the other hand makes the case for the Chinese society’s apprehension of westernization through education and modernization. The onset of colonial influence brought education that developed conflicting morals and perceptions that stood in the way of cultural transition. The story captures this transition and the huddles that the 19th century Chinese cultural definition faced.
Analysis and Comparison
The two novels display a great since of similarity in both qualitative and quantitative aspects.
Power of Education
Education is depicted as a common source of cultural conflict in both stories. It is portrayed as standing in the way of cultural growth and transition. On one end, it acts as a bridge for the transition from cultural and primitive ideology and perception to modern and western ways.
Dee’s mother struggled to take her to school because she was denied education herself. As a child, her school faced closure and that was the end to her chance at an education despite her high ambition and optimism. Jing-mei’s mother on the other hand is confident and positive that her daughter will make it through any education in America. She gives her tests that she has not even learnt and admires the presenter on television and thinks the same of her daughter.
On the other hand, education is considered as a barrier to the passing on of culture. The older generations are not confident that their children will be able to pass the cultural nuances to their children. In turn, the older generation is seen to force cultural provisions on the younger generation.
The setting of both stories in between the span of 1920 and 1970. They both reflect an element of youthful daughters who are faced with the problem of cultural transition into the American society. It also provides a stage for the relationship between mother and daughter as representatives of native culture and the modern western culture.
All the memories of the mothers in the stories have a relatively common thematic similarity of cultural and traditional injustice that takes place in china for the two things story and America for the “Every Day” use story. Their daughters on the other hand have a chance at an American societal experience through education.
These stories convey a common affirmative tone that is representative of feminist ideology doing the mid and end of the 19th century. They capture the challenges that the 21th century generation faced in transitioning into new ways of the western trend.
Barnet, Sylvan and Cain, William .Literature for Composition. New York. Longman Publishing, 2005 p 345-500.
Harmon, William and Hugh, Holman .A Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ:Prentice-Hall, 1999.
Tan, Amy. Two kinds.1989 p, 3-8. Web.
Walker, Alice. Everyday use. New York. Rutgers University Press, 1994 p3-229.
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker Essay
In the short story Everyday Use, Alice Walker talks about the conflict that exists between Mama and Dee. This observation is shared by many. All the literary critic and commentator will agree that there is conflict between the mother and her eldest daughter. All of them will also agree that Mama chose to stand beside Maggie and supported her while she turned her back on Dee. However, there is no universal agreement when it comes to who is right and who is wrong.
There are those who said that Mama recognized the superficiality of Dee while she favored the moral strength of Maggie. On the other side of the fence there are those who said that Dee had the correct worldview and that she was justified her attempt to transform Mama’s old way of thinking. The reader must not take sides and instead find a way to reconcile the opposing worldviews of Mama and Dee.
Nancy Tuten echoes the sentiment of most readers and most commentators who said that Dee was a bad example of how a girl should behave. This is evident in the introduction to an article that she had written on this subject and she wrote “Commentaries on Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” typically center on Mama’s awakening to one daughter’s superficiality and to the other’s deep-seated understanding of heritage (Tuten, 1993, p.125). There are many examples in Alice Walker’s story that supports this view.
In the very beginning of the story one can already see the reason why Tuten disapproved of Dee’s actions and supported the desire of Mama and Maggie to continue with their way of life. There was a romantic air to Mama’s description of her home. She said it with affection and pride:
A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house (Walker, 1973, p. 284).
The simple life is favored over the sophisticated life of the urban dwellers. Based on the world view of Tuten someone has to preserve the best of yesteryears, when the world was all about the beauty of family and enjoying the slow-paced lifestyle. A world populated by people who are not pressured to buy the latest gadgets and be updated with the latest trend.
Tuten’s commentary is a criticism to the lifestyle chosen by Dee. Tuten condemned her using a strong word and she said that is superficial. In other words she implied that Dee is all about the outward appearance and yet unable to fathom and appreciate what is deep and real.
Tuten’s made some valid arguments but she must also consider the importance of progress. It is being overly romantic to keep on wishing that the old days will not pass away. Sooner or later change will overtake every country and every community. The well swept hard clay may be nice during summer but what will happen when there is heavy rain? Is it possible that Mama and Maggie will not be able to come out of the house because the place is all muddied and they can even walk to buy their food?
On the other extreme Susan Farrell disagrees with the worldview of Mama and Maggie and instead favored the forward-thinking attitude of Dee. Susan Farrell made an emphatic argument against those who try to put down Dee and she wrote: “We must remember from the beginning that the story is told by Mama; the perceptions are filtered through her mind and her views of her two daughters are not to be accepted uncritically” (Farrell, 1998, p.179).
This is in direct opposition to Tuten’s analysis of the short story. However, Farrell went to the extreme. It is difficult to understand why she turned a blind eye to the faults of Dee.
It has to be made clear that Farrel’s understanding of Alice Walker’s story is an acceptable argument. One has to question who had the correct worldview. It is no loner convenient to praise Mama and Maggie’s dedication to preserve traditions and to condemn Dee for her progressive thinking.
It has to be said that perhaps Dee was not materialistic but simply wanted to improve her life. She simply wanted progress over backwardness and chose improvement over stagnation. However, Farrell just like Tuten went to the extreme in their praise and condemnation of the main characters.
Both Mama and Dee needed to see the big picture. Mama cannot keep on postponing her date with the present reality. It is time for her kids to experience what it feels like to be educated. There is nothing wrong with the fact that Dee decided to go to school and desire for a better life. It is wrong for her in not encouraging Maggie to reach for the stars.
She seemed justified in her actions because of Maggie’s injuries but even with a disability a child must go to school. There is no indication that Maggie is retarded and so it begs the question why she is attached to her mother like a cat’s tail to a cat.
On the other hand Dee must learn to value family and traditions. She must value it the way Mama and Maggie values their family history and heritage. It seems that Dee can only manage to appreciate what they have on an intellectual level while Mama and Maggie were able to embrace what they went through and their past history from an emotional and spiritual level.
It can be argued that Alice Walker is suggesting that the qualities of Mama and Dee must be fused. This is perhaps the reason why she inserted Maggie in the story. Maggie does not hate Dee’s sophistication and learning, in fact she wants to be like Dee. But at the same time Maggie is sensitive enough to honor and respect her mother and their traditions.
Maggie is the embodiment of what is possible if Mama’s conservatism and Dee’s progressive mindset can be combined in one person. The only thing that Maggie needed to do is to get out of her shell and not use her injuries as an excuse to grow and mature as a person.
It is not correct to take sides to choose between Mama and Dee. Both of them are correct and both of them are wrong when it comes to 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 other hand it is wrong for Dee to reduce everything into an intellectual treatise.
She knew the value of the quilts from a historical and analytical perspective but she is unable to show her mother and sister how much she respects the spiritual and emotional value of those quilts. Both mother and daughters must learn to live in the modern world without forgetting where they came from.
Farrell, Susan. “Fight vs. Flight: A Re-evaluation of Dee in Alice Walker’s ‘Everydayuse’”.
Studies in Shrot Fiction. 35.2 (1998): 179. Academic Search Premier. Web.
Tuten, Nancy. “Alice Walker’s Everyday Use.” Explicator. 51.2 (1993): 125. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Fiction: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Laurie Kirszner & Stephen Mandell. FL: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994.
Everyday Use by Alice Walker Essay
‘Everyday Use’ is set in the American rural down South; superficially, it is a story of Mama Johnson and her conflicting psychological reception and relationship with her two daughters, Dee and Maggie (Xroads). Dee has taken an impressive formal education and now works in an urban environment; she is light skinned and sophisticated (Xroads).
Maggie has never left, she is the typical country girl, even in appearance and there are still traces of scars that she obtained from a house fire. Mama Johnson, who was born and grew in the early days of the past century, is struggling to understand the implications of her own background (represented by Maggie) in comparison to the life that Dee now leads. She keeps comparing Dee and Maggie. In the end she favors the practical life and values of the less fortunate Maggie instead of the superficial values of Dee.
Deep down, the story is exploring the question of African-American heritage; the story, probably set in the ebbing days of the 1960s or at the dawn of 1970s, coincides with the attempt of African-Americans to define their identity in terms of culture (Xroads).
The term ‘Negro’ was gradually replaced with ‘Black’ but the pains and injustices of the past had been so cruel that the black people are willing to deny and reject their American heritage (Xroads). This story is an exploration of both African and American heritages of the black people; the three characters represent the three faces of this theme.
Mama represents the uncertain link between the African and American heritages. From mama’s description of herself, the way she takes pride in her expertise at killing and cleaning a hog, makes one see that she appreciates the practical aspects of her life and nature, it is easy to assume that she cannot ponder such an abstract concept as heritage.
Yet, even with her lack of formal education and refinement, her respect and love for those who preceded her reflects her inherent comprehension of heritage through the way that she is able to associate pieces of clothes in two quilts with those who’s clothes the pieces had been cut from (Xroads). The quilts “are special to Mama when she touches the quilts, it is her way of touching the people that the quilts represent” (Xroads).
These quilts are a symbol and represent gone times to which one still has a shaky and ambivalent relationship; the same symbolism is portrayed through the dasher handle. When mama touches the ridges left by fingers of those who are gone, she connects with them (Xroads).
Dee’s superficial nature: her personality, her dressing and speech, represents the superficial perspective of heritage that the Black Power movement preached. There are inconsistencies in her style and her manner and she does not understand the origin of her name ‘Dee’ and the link to her family; this is a reflection of her attempt to reject her American heritage.
Maggie, on the other hand, is nervous in the presence of Dee and is ashamed of her scars and hides from Dee; these scars symbolize the fires of slavery. Her manner: staring at the ground, her feet in shuffle; she represents the American heritage of the black people.
Dee and Maggie do not interact, it is only as the story ends that Dee speaks to her angrily as she is leaving; this ending portrays the relationship of the African and American heritages. The former acting inferiorly before the latter that does not hesitate to flaunt its perceived superiority and assert its assumed disconnection from the former.
The general argument that Alice projects here is that African-American is a product of both African and American natives, and rejecting the American face is not only disrespectful to their respective ancestors, but also detrimental to that heritage which defines the blacks.
Xroads. “Everyday Use by Alice Walker.” 2011. Web. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug97/quilt/walker.html>
Everyday Use by Alice Walker Research Paper
Walker shows us what inheritance is through her short story, Everyday Use. The two hand-stitched quilts draw attention and become the center of conflict in the family of Mama and her two daughters. Walker also uses these quilts as symbolism for heritage. The author shows that different views, events, and situations shape one’s life in different ways as an individual responds to them. In the short story, we see the conflict within the family of Mama and her two daughters (SuperSummary 1-5).
Walker narrates the story of a conflict in relation to identities and heritage. The author presents the conflict through Maggie, Dee, and the Mother. All these characters show variations in beliefs due different experiences and ideologies in life. Mama lives a simple life based on her cultural heritage.
This is a fulfilling life to Mama because she believes in simplicity of life. As a result, Mama scorns Dee’s materialistic tendencies when relating to her culture. On the other hand, Maggie is shy and submissive almost like Mama in simplicity, but she still remembers her heritage. Dee shows a modern way of life that is out of touch with her culture and heritage. Dee’s characters and actions show that one can only value her culture for its artistic appeal.
Mama is happy and proud about her simple life. Dee has materialistic tendencies in which she only craves for “nice things” (Walker 384) in her life. Moreover, Dee believes that she can control her life and do anything she wants to do with it.
She demonstrates this trait by insisting on having the churn top and the dasher together with the quilts. However, Mama had promised to give these items to Maggie. On the contrary, Maggie has come into terms with her life. She believes that happiness comes from the heart and not from material possessions.
These characters also have diverse views about culture and heritage. Mama and Maggie consider a strong family tradition as their source of heritage. Mama believes that heritage is memories of the tradition and its practical aspects.
She believes that Maggie shall use quilts every day. Still, Mama also has fond memories of the benches when Dee admires them, she notes that Dee’s daddy made the benches “when they couldn’t afford to buy chairs” (Walker 385). Mama has a special affection to history because it brings sweet memory of her husband. On the same note, Maggie also likes tradition and its memories.
She can remember how Henry or Stash carved the dasher (Walker 386). Maggie could have learned such history from her Mama and kept it in her memory as a part of history and tradition. Maggie sees a great meaning in the quilts. She considers the quilts as sources of memory and tradition. For instance, she says, “I cannot remember Grandma Dee without the quilts” (Walker 386).
This shows that Maggie’s relation with the two quilts is expressive and special in her memory, traditions, and history. These quilts represent tradition and history to Maggie, not because they are hand stitched, but rather because of the history and heritage, they have in the family. On the other hand, Dee sees her tradition as African culture. In fact, Dee rejects her family heritage because it does not conform to African traditions.
According to Dee, her family tradition does not reflect her beliefs. For instance, after she receives education from the city and becomes stylish, Dee writes to Mama and informs her that she would visit home, “but will never bring her friends” (Walker 383). Dee does not want her friends to learn about her background, history, and tradition. Dee considers it as backward and unsophisticated life. Dee strives to embrace the root culture of Africans, but she refuses to accept her own heritage.
Dee sees her heritage in terms of materialistic qualities, rather than as history and heritage of her family. For instance, Dee informs her family that she changed her name to ‘Wangero’ and states that, “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (Walker 385). According to her, the name has been “a form of oppression” (Walker 386), and changing it gives her a sense of self-determination.
One can realize that Dee’s new name is an African name, but has nothing in relation to her history, family, and traditions. Education has changed Dee’s attitude toward her family and heritage. She prefers new life and sophistication of the city. Dee is not aware of the art of making quilts, but she knows that such “old quilts in her family are priceless and invaluable” (Walker 386). The major concern for Dee is the appearance of the quilts and not their cultural representations.
According to Dee, the churn top is only suitable as “a centerpiece for the alcove table” (Walker 386). On the contrary, her mother and Maggie consider the churn top as an item of connection to their heritage. One can also notice that Dee “admires the benches because of their textures” (Walker 386), but she fails to notice whoever made them. Dee and Mama have different views about the quilts. Her mother believes that the quilts should be on everyday use as a way of keeping the past alive.
Conversely, Dee believes that the quilts should only serve decorative purposes. Dee wants her mother and Maggie to embrace the new life of sophistication. For instance, she tells Maggie that, “It’s really a new day for us, but from the way you and mama still live, you’d never know it” (Walker 388). However, Mama and Maggie have not embraced the new culture of Dee. Further, Mama and Maggie show confusion about the new state of Dee’s life.
They do not see any connection to the new name of Dee, ‘Wangero’ because Mama and Maggie can only find such memories in their heritage and history. They have such memories because of the role that heritage has played in their lives. Mama and Maggie believe that the family heritage is important in their daily lives. However, Dee believes that heritage is history that does not have any significant role in her present life, and any memory should only be of artistic value.
Dee has totally failed to recognize any value in her family heritage. Consequently, she finds a heritage that matches her education and sophistication. Dee believes that her new name, Wangero represents her heritage and cultural beliefs. Dee thinks that the name represents her African values.
However, one can observe that Dee has failed in this endeavor because the name and her African attires have no meaning because they are false and artificial. Besides, Dee does not understand her new culture. Dee constructs a culture that is beyond her history and reach.
Education has only served the role of alienating Dee from her family, true identity, and heritage. With haughty ideals from the city life and education, Dee lost her heritage and identity, which can only come from the family. Dee’s new life and a sense of identity scare Mama and Maggie because their simple lives cannot match the new identity of Dee.
Visibility, rights, and equal opportunities are the new ideals of Dee. While these ideals are not problematic, what is bothersome is that Dee has lost respect for her heritage and alienated herself from the family. Maggie is a contrast of Dee. She does not know of any other heritage apart from the family heritage. She lacks education that Dee has.
However, Maggie has accepted her situation and found her self-fulfillment. Walker manages to use contrast in order to reveal effects of lacking and having education between the two sisters. Dee’s insatiable search for education has led her to reject her heritage and simple life of Mama and Maggie. On the other hand, Maggie’s lack of education has stifled her, and made her to accept everything without questions. Walker shows that either having or lacking education can be detrimental in a family.
Walker has also written other short stories. For instance, You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down is a collection of fourteen short stories that show the plight and triumph of African American women (Walker 3-138). Just like in Everyday Use, Walker tells her stories from perspectives of women.
Characters narrate their experiences of trauma and success. While such stories are common and may not be unique, it is the African woman’s viewpoint that makes the work outstanding. These ideas vary from pornography, gender issues to inequality among others. Some of these experiences may force women to superficiality.
For instance, Dee lives in a world of superficiality while Maggie maintains a deep understanding of her culture. As Mama realizes the simplicity of Maggie, she begins to appreciate it (Walker 389). Conversely, the new life of Dee has only led to confusion in the family.
Walker aims to assert that people should appreciate their heritage and culture. In addition, people should not look at heritage and culture as the ‘dead past’ that can only serve ornamental purposes. Instead, people should see their heritage as a living past. We should ensure that we put heritage in everyday use to sustain it.
Walker wrote Everyday Use in the 1970s when African Americans were struggling to find and control their identities. As a result, some of them could not match the social, cultural, and political aspects that developed. This led to confusion among African American women. Walker also notes contributions of African Americans through their arts. Such artworks connected their generations to the past. In fact, artworks survived through generations and served as important pieces of heritage.
Dee reflects the struggle among African Americans who wanted to establish their own identity through their original roots, Africa. However, such people often failed because their roots remained vague to them. The bleak history inspired people to trace their ancestry in order to grasp and reconnect with their roots. Overall, Walker’s short story shows African Americans who did not understand the concept of the black consciousness or its ideals.
Alice Walker is an “American author, feminist, poet, and activist born in 1944” (Walker 1). She has written several short stories and poems. In fact, Walker listened to black stories from her father, which influenced her late works. Events of her childhood and political, social, and historical development in the US also feature in all her works. She narrates these stories manly from African American women perspectives.
SuperSummary. “Plot Summary of Everyday Use by Alice Walker.” 2012. Web. <http://www.supersummary.com/>.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology For Readers and Writers. 2nd ed. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 382-389. Print.
—. You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down. San Diego: Mariner Books, 1982. Print.
Denial in “Everyday Use” and “Jilting of Granny Weatherall” Essay
Denial is an aspect of not complying with or failure to satisfy a request, which is portrayed well by the characters of Everyday Use and Jilting of Granny Weatherall. The former is about heritage where a black family fails to accept their twin state as African-Americans and end up choosing either African or American heritage. Jilting of Granny Weatherall on the other hand portrays denial but in this case is of self.
The old woman fails to accept her jilting by her lover to her death even though she prides in having been married and fend for her family all alone after facing the death of her husband at a tender age.
She happens not to be afraid of anything and she is determined to take down anything that comes her way to threaten her existence. Her dressing which according to Hoel “is of West African origin” (4) and speech betrayed her American heritage hence showing her superficial nature.
For Dee quilts, which were a symbol of her family heritage, were for class and admiration. She pegged no ancestral existence to them. She denounced her American name to Wangero Leewanika Kamenjo though she still held her American consumer culture dear to her.
Walker argues that she wants to do all that the whites did with the cunning equipment of the past (175). This is to maintain that heritage as an unenthusiastic manifestation to her classiness. Dee’s boyfriend on the other hand, has a Black Muslim background by his language. Therefore, “He is not interested in farming and ranching” (Walker 411).
Dee defies both the American and African heritage. She has no clue of how far her name that was her aunt’s goes down in the family. She too fails to understand the meaning of the churns as far as history is concerned. She goes further to not interacting with her blood kid sister because she is more American in speech and depicting denial of her American heritage.
On the same note, Maggie feels neglected and she is ashamed of her nature. Her mother describes her as a maimed and useless animal perhaps a dog ran over by a car. She always lives and stays in the corners not to be seen and even her speaking is faint.
She does not feel like she can be like her sister, accept her state and move on. Later on when Mama sees the scars in the hand s of Maggie, she realizes that she should be proud of her heritage meaning she had denied the same all her years. She understands that there is no need to sacrifice either of her heritages for that was who she was together with her daughters.
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall as the name suggests contains a granny weathers all that life ever presented. Her boyfriend/husband jilted her. Granny has had pneumonia for many years and this made her have no faith in doctors. She asks Doctor Harry where he was when she pulled through milk-leg and pneumonia many years ago (WriteWork contributors), meaning that she was accustomed to life never meaning the best for her.
She actually feels neglected and seems not to agree that she was actually dying, she refuses to talk to the priest too. She seems to have bitterness with what happened during her wedding and she is careful not to go through the same again. She represses the jilting of George instead of facing life head on.
Granny too happens to be a staunch catholic who contrary to her actions, faith fails her. She felt that even God had jilted her and deceived her when she was left at the altar by her love. She literary becomes immortal in her mind after failing to pass on at her sixties and she does not accept that time was almost up for her as she repeatedly claims that she had a lot to do come the following day.
During her youthful age, she managed to sew clothes, do fences and much more and she thinks that the same would be the case at her age. At some point, she lost the most important thing in her life a child that she always wanted to have. Her obsession in her dreams signifies her failure to accept her death and move on with life. Sometimes she thought of her dead husband John too.
She wanted to see him again and tell her how she fared in some stuff. She lived in a wounded vanity. Additionally, God seems to jilt her making it worse for being in heaven was the only worthwhile thing that kept going. According to Porter, there is nothing crueler than this (588).
Denial is a role played tactfully and skillfully in the two essays. The denial in Alice Walker’s essay is about heritage where the actors have two heritages that they need to hold dear but they end up embracing one depending with their preferences.
On the other hand, Jilting of Granny Weatherall is about denial of self and life experiences as a whole portrayed by Granny. She is in denial yet she is determined by even denying the comfort from Cornelius and the doctor.
Hoel, Helga. Personal Names and Heritage: Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use’. Norway: Trondheim Cathedral School, 2000. Print.
Porter, Katherine. The Jilting of Granny Weatherall. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 2000. Print.
Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. 4th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 1998. Print.
WriteWork Contributors. “The Stages of Death: 5 stages of death”. The jilting of Granny Weatherall by Katherine Porter. 27 April, 2004. Web.
“Saboteur” and “Everyday Use” Literary Comparison Essay
The stories we are going to talk about are Saboteur by Ha Jin and Everyday Use by Alice Walker. The first one centers around some unfair punishment, which the main character Mr. Chiu is suffering and his strange way to take revenge on people.
The second story describes the life of a common family in which even tenor is interrupted by the visit of one of the daughters of Mama and their different understanding of identity. These two stories are absolutely different, and the main characters are different too. They possess qualities that distinguish them from each other, making Mr. Chiu and Mama absolutely dissimilar.
The main character of the story, Saboteur, is Mr. Chiu. He is a very well educated person working as a lecturer at Harbin University (Jin para. 34). He has just returned from his honeymoon and wants to enjoy a day to day routine. However, there is one thing that darkens his life. It is the fact that “he had suffered from acute hepatitis” (Jin para. 4) This knowledge becomes very important for the development of the story.
Being imprisoned, he shows qualities which are peculiar for a noble, high educated though a bit naive person. He believes in justice and the ideal of tolerance as it was proclaimed that “all citizens were equal before the law” (Jin para. 27). However, another part of his nature is shown at the end of the story. Being irritated, he just wants to take revenge, infecting people with hepatitis. He serves as a typical image of a despaired intellectual who is totally exhausted.
The main character of another story is Mama. She is totally different. She serves as an embodiment of the image of the working woman “I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man working hands. In the winter, I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls dur.ing the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man” (Walker, para. 5).
Of course, she is not educated. She finished only one class, and she cannot even read. Her character corresponds to her look. The story is presented from her point of view, and her thoughts sound very steadily without any complicated constructions. However, she is a good woman who is satisfied with her life, and she loves her children and cares about them. Her daughter Dee comes to her after a long pause, totally different; however, she does not deprive her of mothers love.
From the first point of view, these two main characters seem to be very different. It is possible to oppose well educated and intelligent Mr. Chiu to uneducated mother of two daughters. He believes in some high ideas of tolerance and human rights, while she seems to be totally indifferent to these words. Life is her best teacher, and she shows the existence of some kind of worldly wisdom. While Mr. Chiu does not have any sign of it. His attempt to go against the system perfectly demonstrates it.
It can be taken as the great desire to attain justice; however, form another point of view, he just behaves himself silly admonishing the policeman. The great difference can also be seen in the endings of the stories. An uneducated woman shows more compassion, love, and understanding of her identity than intelligent Mr. Chiu, who infects a great number of innocent people in his blind desire to take revenge.
Jin, Ha. Saboteur. 2000. Web.
Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. 1973. Web.
Literature Studies: ‘Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker Essay
Published in 1973, ‘Everyday Use’ is a repeatedly anthologized short story which is studied and appreciated on a wide scale. This short story is written by Alice Walker, which got published in her short story collection – ‘In Love and Trouble.’ The story revolves around three core characters and their perspective on family heritage. This essay will discuss in brief this short story and its plot, and the different perspectives behind it. Furthermore, a substitute title is suggested, which is in relevance to the theme of the short story.
‘Everyday Use’ is a story of a small African family which lived in the south of the country. The family includes a mother, Mrs. Johnson, and her two daughters, Maggie and Dee. The story is told by the mother. According to her, Maggie was the youngest, dull, and not attractive at all. She was a simple and traditional girl who has never left home. On the contrary, Dee, who was the eldest daughter, was educated, deep, and worldly wise. She lived far from her hometown in a college to pursue a good education.
The title suggested for this short story is given in relevance to its characters and their different perspectives. As every character of the story concludes with diverse endings, and therefore, it is very significant to study their perspectives one by one. Hence, the title ‘the difference in perception’ is the most suitable in my viewpoint.
To understand the story from a different perspective, it is very vital to understand the plot of ‘everyday use.’ This essay will discuss and analyze the plot of ‘Everyday Use’ in a detailed manner. It will make it easy to understand the characters and their perspectives. The story ‘Everyday Use’ tells us the importance of rich family inheritance and lessons which are learned through them.
To decide upon whom the valuables of the family history are transferred and how they become an issue of conflict between families are also considered in this report. In this story, the two hand-stitched quilts become the bone of conflict between the two sisters.
Those two quilts were hand stitched with numerous interesting clothes which were worn by the family members of the African tribe. Just like the quilt, every individual has a different perspective on how they see the world, and thus their life is a mixture of numerous events and circumstances which tells them how to respond to their surroundings – the world.
Just like this, ‘Everyday Use’ is a story of two contrary / conflicting worlds. Recounted by Mama (Mrs. Johnson), the story tells us about two diverse worlds which were personified in her two daughters.
How two girls from the same rich inherited family and same community can be so different in their personalities? However, no traits of wealthy family background were witnessed in the story or by their get-ups. The plot and the story simply explain that diversity was noticed in Dee’s nature, which gave rise to the conflict.
Dee was different in nature and attitude. Despite living in rural life, she never was a part of it and always considered herself as a part of the urban world. This was because of the education she was getting; her physical appearance compared to her sister, who got burnt, did not have the proper shape, and it was dull and unattractive. The entire story is told in a framework which portrays the returning of Dee home for the first time after her departure for college.
On her arrival, Maggie was not comfortable and got nervous. Since Dee was better in appearance and personality than Maggie, she had some sort of complex and could not face her sister as she does not like her. On the arrival of her sister- Dee, she was not coming in the courtyard to her mother to greet and welcome her sister. Her mother called her and gripped her hand tightly so that she may not run away upon meeting her sister. This scenario can be easily understood from a few lines from the story, which says:
‘How do I look, Mama?’ Maggie says, showing just enough of her thin body enveloped in a pink skirt and red blouse for me to know she’s there, almost hidden by the door.
When Dee returns from college, she arrives with her boyfriend. Her mother was not happy with it and her appearance. She was astonished when she got to know that she changed her name as well. She had come to collect the valuables from the house so that she can add them to her décor. Her mother was not happy with this fact and was surprised to see that she did not value the inheritance.
Moreover, she insisted on taking the two hand stitched antique quilts with her, which her mother and grandmother made. Her mother refused to give them to her as she had promised Maggie that they are hers. This became an issue of conflict between the two sisters and the mother. In anger, Maggie decided to give those quilts to her, but in the end, the mother took them back and asked Dee to take other quilts.
According to the perspective of Mama, Dee was going in the wrong direction, and she was on her own, having her style, which was very different from the family. This can be understood as Mama tells in the story that:
“At sixteen she [Dee] had a style of her own; and knew what style was.” She had proper features and physically attractive.”
According to Maggie, she was not like Dee and was physically unattractive as she got burnt when their house caught fire decade back. She had scars on her body, and that was the reason she was low on confidence. She never went out of the house. Maybe somewhere in her heart, she envied Dee, or maybe she was in a complex with her sister. She never liked her nor her actions or her presence as it made her uncomfortable.
According to Dee, the life her mother and sister were living was very old and not that what she wanted. This was why she had changed her name to ‘Wangero’ as her name was too old.
“Well,” I say. “Dee.”
“No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”
“What happened to ‘Dee’?” I wanted to know.
“She’s dead,” Wangero said. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.”
Anyone who puts himself/herself on Dee’s position may act in the same way she did. Someone who experiences life in an urban society may act that way, but should not forget their family inheritance and should respect them. After that evening, Dee went back to her college and mother, and Maggie kept sitting in the courtyard till late at night, and that is how this short story ends.
Alice Walker “Everyday Use”
Everyday Use by Alice Walker takes into account a central conflict between two women. This conflict is symbolized by two main characters; Mrs. Johnson and Dee. Both have certain characteristics are similar but mostly Alice juxtaposes these characters with each other to bring out the main theme of the play. Dee is an epitome of shallow materialism and an adherent of prevailing concept of heritage where heritage is revered only for trendiness and aesthetic attraction whereas Mrs. Johnson admires heritage for its practical utility and personal importance.
Both Mrs. Johnson and Dee are from the same socio-cultural backgrounds but both are brought up in different cultural milieu. Both admire heritage but their motives are different. Mrs Johnson is ‘In real life I am a large, big- boned woman with rough, man-working hands’ (273) whereas Dee is soft-skinned and of delicate nature. Piedmont-Mortob is of the view that central conflict is between Maggie and Dee and “is about whether heritage exists in things or in spirit, or process.
” Dee’s longing for heritage is for ostentatious reasons.
For example she says, “I can use the chute top as a centerpiece for the alcove table…and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher”. (277) Contemporary periodical necessities make her cherish and celebrate her Afro-American heritage. “Dee views her heritage as an artifact which she can possess and appreciate from a distance instead of as a process in which she is always intimately involved. ” (Piedmont-Marton) But Mrs. Johnson and Maggie have learnt to live with their heritage.
Dee is captivated by the beauty of “churn top” and wanted to have it to be used as centerpiece for her alcove table whereas Mrs. Johnson has used it practically for churn butter hitherto. Walker utilizes the butter churn to demonstrate Mrs. Johnson’s intrinsic understanding of heritage. When [Dee] finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my hands. You didn’t even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood.
In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was a beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived. (277) About quilts Dee says: “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts… She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (278) that shows her shallow reason to love her heritage. Mrs. Johnson says, “I am the way my daughter would want me to be”. (273) This is manifestation of her adoption to the changing circumstances.
Same is the case with Dee as her pretensions about her culture are directly related to the changing social environment where heritage is celebrated and is not understood. The development of Dee into Wangero shows various facets and phases through which black identity passed during late 1960s and 1970s. Predilection for appearance as compared with spirit remained hallmark of this era and this trend is manifested through Dee’s transformation into Wangero. “Dee’s new name, her costume, and her new boyfriend (or husband) are all indicative of her frivolous attitude toward her newly adopted African culture. ” (White)
Above-mentioned arguments and supported evidence show that there exist similarities as well difference between the character of Mrs. Johnson and Dee. They love the same thing for different reason.
Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. “An Overview of ‘Everyday Use. ‘” Short Stories for Students. Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Thomson Gale. Valencia Community College East Campus Lib. , Orlando. 18 Jan. 2002 <https://www. linccweb. org/eresources. asp>. White, David. “’Everyday Use’: Defining African-American Heritage. ” 2001. Anniina’s Alice Walker Page. 19 Sept. 2002. Walker, Alice.