Sharacter of Mother In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, Mama is at first callous and hardened by events from her life, but shows that she has a warm sentiment for her two children. She is a character who, through the antagonistic behavior from one of her daughters, exhibits that she is emotionally receptive. Her strength as a person comes from her hardened capabilities and skills, but also as a mother. In fact, Mama is a character who represents strength not through her physical capabilities but chiefly because of her motherly emotional intelligence, maturity, and wisdom.
Though her physicality is clearly defined, Mama also shows a strong emotional connection to her children. her dreams exude this connection, specifically to her daughter Dee. For example, Mama dreams of surprising her estranged daughter on stage of a late night show for the purpose of celebrating how her daughter has succeeded in life (1). Walker describes this event as “A pleasant surprise of course: What would they do if parent and child came on the show only to curse out and insult each other?” (1). In other words, this suggests that even though she loves her daughter enough to want to praise her achievements in life, she thinks in reality it would only end in Dee and her in a feud. This shows her strength as a mother because despite her daughter’s distance from the family and the implied turmoil that Dee may have had with her in the past, she still wishes her well enough to want to celebrate her. She understands that her daughter is less than caring towards her, and the fact that she still consolidates her love for Dee in spite of the distance that has been created between them shows her capabilities as a mother. To not feel spiteful that her daughter has not reciprocated feelings of love shows that Mama is selfless enough to appreciate Dee’s accomplishments regardless of any unrequited feelings.
Secondly, Mama displays another level of emotional strength in regards to Dee. The way she devotes herself to providing a future for her daughter is compassionate to say the least, despite Dee’s condescension. In recognition of her daughter’s intelligence, Mama raised money to send her to college (2). However, Mama notes, “[Dee] wrote to me once that no matter where we ‘choose’ to live, she will manage to come see us.” (2). This indicates that Dee acts conceited towards her mother despite the efforts made to pay for her tuition. Regardless, Mama’s consistent efforts to support her daughter clearly shows a sentiment towards motherhood that is apropos of her strength as a person. Additionally, despite being a poor family, Mama still works hard for money so that Dee has the privilege to go to college. However, Dee is too vain to show appreciation towards her mother’s altruistic actions, and even patronizes her sister and her mother for being poor. This disregard is not how one would think a person would act when given a chance at a higher education. In turn, one would think a mother would avoid helping a daughter that fails to respect someone who raised her, but instead of showing malice, Mama still maturely dedicates herself to her children. This concentrated effort towards her daughters future gives way to how Mama exercises her empathetic strength; by supporting her daughter in a way that goes unnoticed, so long as Dee succeeds in her academic endeavours.
Finally, Mama exhibits her strength through wisdom as well. Her decision surrounding the quilts highlights how she uses that wisdom in a conclusive manner. Dee attempts to take the quilts her grandmother made in order to frame them in her own home (5). However, Walker writes that Mama “snatched the quilts out of miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into Maggie’s lap” (6). That is to say, Mama decided to give them to Maggie instead because she was going to actually use them because of their personal familial meaning, not showcase them on a wall for their cultural value. This action shows a strength in Mama because she is wise enough to recognize that Dee’s intentions with the quilts are shallow and unrelated to her family. She instead forcefully ensures that the daughter who actually understands the value of the quilts receives them. Considering that Maggie learned how to quilt, it is sensible that Mama would believe that she is more appropriately deserving of the quilts then Dee, as she has more of a connection to the craft. This in turn reveals a deeper appreciation for familial bond on Mama’s part, as she believes that the perpetuation of their history as a family will be better handled in the hands of Maggie. This example of wisdom reveals that Mama is compassionate enough to connect with her family that has passed on, but also to understand that Dee has rejected her family in the past, and shows a fickle regard for cultural preservation. Her ability to act against Dee in this case represents a deeper strength that shows she knows the cultural relevance of the quilts.
In conclusion, Mama is someone who may be physically strong, but truly exhibits her best qualities of strength through her emotional acuity and mature perspective. Even in dreams she remains connected to her estranged daughter, wishing to reunite with her in a positive way. Despite her daughter not showing gratitude for the tuition that she paid for, Mama still wishes for her daughter’s future to be a successful one, no matter how patronizing Dee becomes towards her family’s poverty. Moreover, Mama’s decision regarding the quilts gives way to her ability to use her wisdom in order to decide that Maggie is more deserving of them.
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