Everyday Use By Alice Walker
“Everyday Use” is a short story by Alice Walker and it was initially published in 1973. This short story was a part of the collection of short stories by Alice Walker titled ‘In Love and Trouble’. This short story is very widely studied due to its subject matter and the issues it highlights. The short story also has a film version which came to foreground in 2003.
The short story is a first person narrative and the person telling the story is called “Mama” who has two daughters and is living in the Deep South. Mama lives with one of her daughters called Maggie who is the younger one. Maggie follows the traditions and cultures of the traditional rural South, while Dee, the older daughter is more successful and does not like to be associated with her roots.
Mama also draws a comparison between Mrs. Johnson and Maggie in a comic way which highlights the differences between the cultures. The setup of the story develops when Dee visits her mother and sister after a long time. When she comes home, she and her mother have an argument based on some family heirlooms. Dee does not like her cultural roots while her mother values their identity and culture therefore values those heirlooms. Dee’s acceptance or rejection of her native culture has been highlighted using numerous objects such as quilts and butter churn. At some points she seems to understand the value of her culture but at other points, she completely rejects her identity. Dee also changes her name because her family name entirely represents her native identity and it can be traced to her native roots.
Alice Walker adds a number of comparative elements in the story which help the reader identify the conflicts of cultures prevailing in the world. A number of people are ashamed of their native identities because they presume that their native roots are not accepted in the world.
However, they fail to understand that having an identity is highly important and it is essential to recognize once native roots. This is the reason why this short story by Alice Walker holds so much importance, specifically for the academics who use this story to explain the importance of identity and culture. The comparison of Maggie and Dee is one that can be associated with on so many different levels.
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Alice Walkers life as an African-American novelist and poet has led to many award winning short-stories and books. She was raised in the southern state of Georgia and her parents were sharecroppers. This taught her that being an African-American can have its rough times. After being shot by a BB gun when she was eight, Alice remained blinded in one eye. Her ailment caused her to seclude herself from other children her age. Alice's feeling of being older than she was shows in her writing of the short story Everyday Use.
One of the storys main characters, Maggie, is a direct relation to the beginning of Alice Walkers life. Maggie, though we dont know her exact age, appears to be a young woman. The story tells of her past as though Alice Walker was telling a slightly altered version of her own life up to that point. Maggie was burned in a fire that was, though never proven, thought to be set by an older sibling. After the fire, Maggie walked chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ashamed of her looks (Perrine 91). In relation, Alice's older sibling shot her in the eye.
This blinded her and made her feel like she was unpleasant to look at. She secluded herself and felt ashamed. These events led to the other, non-social activities. Alice Walker, after being blinded by the BB gun, turns to reading stories and writing poetry. Many of her writings are related to her life as a young black woman. In Everyday Use, Alice uses the character of Maggie to express her own internal struggles.
Maggie is taught by her grandmother to make quilts, and quilts are made to put to everyday use. The opposing character in the story, Dee, only asks for the quilts to hang them and display them as a piece of her heritage. Alice shows both girls opinions to prove that either of the girls could be right. Dee could try to preserve her heritage, if she actually cared about it, by hanging the quilts. However, Maggie has been raised to know that she can use the quilts and still preserve and continue her heritage by repairing the quilts with new scraps, which have their own meaning. Alice wanted to show the relation between African-American people who actually know and live their heritage, as opposed to just pretending for trends sake.
Dees character in the story is a direct relation to the number of people in modern society that does not know their true heritage. Alice uses Dee to show the ignorance of the trendy people pretending to be into their culture and where they come from, but havent bothered to take the time to research African heritage. Dee is following a fashion of celebrating the distant African roots and quickly gives up her real name for one that is not even related to her heritage. After explaining her new name, she tells her mother, I could not bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me (Perrine 93).
In reaction, Dees mother casually explains a little of where her name came from, but it truly seems to be Alice's reaction towards the ignorant people who do not take time to research their given name before trading it for a new one. In a world where many African Americans say they are in touch with their heritage and claim to be a part of only the popular tribes in African history, majority of them do not have any idea about where they came from. Alice Walkers, Everyday Use shows the bitterness Alice has for the great number of black people, and any other race, who just joins on the bandwagon because it sounds good and will probably get them some kind of benefit. Only those people who take the time to research their actual roots, are the ones who, in my opinion, can claim any positive connection to their heritage. Those that are only guessing, or someone who has heard it from a family member and taken it for truth, do not have the proof required to be considered a part of that background. Alice's characters, Maggie and Dee, used in the short story show many different aspects of an African Americans culture that is overly exaggerated or foolish, and the true quilt making, southern culture some have come to celebrate in America.
Alice also relates the story to bits and pieces of her life growing up and how her culture and surroundings affected her. She is one of the many Americans who understands her culture and background and uses this to write numerous wonderful literary works. Bibliography: just a paper written in class, no bib.
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