Everyday Use: Short Story by Alice Walker
In Everyday Use the theme of the story revolves around heritage. Heritage plays a very important part in Mama’s life. She has a strong belief that things that are passed down from generations have the presence of the people who once upon a time own them. Every item that has been passed down to Mama is special to her because it’s her family’s heirlooms. Mama wants her older daughter to understand the meaning of family and what their heritage consists of and how sacred the heirlooms are to the family.
Mama’s older daughter Dee has a very different perspective of heritage. Since Dee is educated and has a broader view of life; she wants the items for her selfish needs to put them in a museum. She wants to make something out of them instead of keeping them to herself and having a deeper connection with these items.
The protagonist and dynamic character in Everyday Use is Mama.
She is a strong independent woman. Her strong independence is first shown by what she is physically capable of doing and handling. She does many things that are viewed in society as manly and not a woman like. She puts her family’s needs before hers and wants to give them what she did not have. For instance, In real life, I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man (Walker 2). Mama works very hard every day to keep her family well. She is not afraid to get dirty and do a job that is considered for men. With her body type, she is built to do any type of work she puts her mind to. Nothing stops her to succeed in what she wants when it comes to family. I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over open fire minutes after it comes streaming hog(Walker 2). This shows how independent Mama is. It shows that she does not need anyone’s help to do something. She does not need a significant other to help her maintain her family, she is perfectly fine without one.
The father’s absence in the family is shown in a way that all they talk about is a close family, but never once do they mention the father. Mama has a strong mentality; nothing disgusts her. She is able to kill animals and that will not bother her, all for the sake of her family. Her family is her main source of motivation and keeps her going throughout all the destruction that she has been through. She has been through so much in her life. For example, when her house burned down she had to figure it all on her own. I used to think she hated Maggie, too. But that was before we raised money, the church and me, to send her to Augusta to school (Walker 3.) Mama is one incredible person with very good intentions. She continues to face many obstacles in her life, but she does not let any of it face her. She achieves what she has in her mind.
The Climax of the story is when Dee is expressing to Mama that she wants the quilts that have been passed down from generation to generation. She tells Mama she wants the quilts to put up in the museum. Dee’s little sister has the quilts in her possession. Dee wants the mom to take them from Maggie and give it to her. She believes in her heart that the quilts will be better off with her than with Maggie. She argues that Maggie is going to destroy the quilts because she won’t take care of them the way she is. Mama, Wangero said sweetly as a bird. Can I have these old quilts? I hear something fall in the kitchen, and a minute later the kitchen door slammed. Why don’t you take one or two of the others? I asked. These old things were just done by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died. (Walker 6.) Dee is a very selfish person she only thinks about herself and wants things her way. She wants Mama to get convinced and take the quilts from Maggie.
Dee argues and brings to the argument that Maggie knows how to quilt and will be able to make herself one if she really wanted one so bad. I looked at her hard. She filled her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff and gave her face a kind of dopey, hangdog look. It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to quilt herself. She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of the skirt. She looked at her sister with something like fear, but she wasn’t mad at her. This was Maggie’s portion. This was the way she knew God work (Walker 7.) In this moment, Mama realized that she needed to choose between one of her daughters. Mama finally stood up to Dee and for what she believes. She has to go against one of her daughters to protect the other. She then realizes how afraid Maggie is of Dee when she is around.
Dee is the type of person that does what she wants and takes what she wants. “When I looked at her like that, something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did something I never have done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands, and dumped them into Maggie’s lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open (Walker 7.) Mamas Character is dynamic. She changes throughout the story. Mama demonstrates the strength she has and what she would do for her family. Mama is an independent woman, but when it comes to her older child Dee she is very weak and lets her step on her. She finally stands up to Dee. If it was her old self she would have let Dee take the quilts. But she was defending her younger daughter.
Mama is a very smart person. She is very street smart. She did not have an education. Everything she knows it because she learned it day by day. She had many struggles but did not let any of them tear her down. I never had an education myself. After second grade the school closed don’t ask me why: 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now. Sometimes Maggie reads to me. She stumbles along good-naturedly but can’t see well. She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness will have passed her by. She will marry John Thomas (who has mossed teeth in an earnest face), and then I’ll be free to sit here, and I guess just sing in church songs to myself. Although I never was a good singer. Never could carry a tune. I was always better at a man’s job. I used to love to milk until I was hooked on the inside in 49. Cows are soothing and slow don’t bother you, unless you try to milk them the wrong way. (Walker 3.) She will move heaven and earth for her kids but will not do it for herself. She lets her Dee step all over her. Mama will never stand up to Dee. She is a very wise woman and experienced woman but does not use that in her advantage when it comes to her children. She lets Dee dictate the situation.
Dee is a particular person. She is ashamed of where she comes from. When she comes back from school she believes everything they have in their home is a work of art and can use them for her museum. She believes its very hip and that person would love to see it in a museum. She wouldn’t want anyone else to see her in the place she once came from. She lets people believe she is rich, and she has money. Dee next. A dress down to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. I feel my whole face warming from the heat throws out. Earrings gold too, and hanging down to her shoulders. Bracelets dangling and making noises when she moves her arms up to shake the folds of her dress out of her armpits. (Walker 4.) Dee has a strong perspective on the way people look at her. She wants it to be known she has it all and that she is beautiful.
The theme of this story is being depicted as a family legacy is vital. Everything that has been passed down from relatives is to be exceptional to everybody in the family. Everybody is to welcome it in light of the fact that these things once had a place with individuals that implied such a great amount to the family and it’s the main thing they need to recall them by. A few people don’t value these easily overlooked details. When their affection ones are gone that when they will need the things and value them. In any case, on the other hand, there are individuals that couldn’t care less for it by any means. Dee has very different views and what the meaning of heritage is from her family’s views. She thinks she is better than her family because she is the only one that has an education. Which is why her Mama is intimidated by her and lets her step all over her. But then she realizes she has been in the wrong the whole time by letting her do what she wants.?
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