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Family And Identity Essay From Everyday Use

Everyday Use By Alice Walker: A Look At Symbolism And Family Values

Alice Walkers “Everyday Use”, is a story about a family of African Americans that are faced with moral issues involving what true inheritance is and who deserves it. Two sisters and two hand stitched quilts become the center of focus for this short story. Walker paints for us the most vivid representation through a third person perspective of family values and how people from the same environment and upbringing can become different types of people.
Like most peoples families there is a dynamic of people involved, although all from the same environment and teachings, it is ultimately an accumulation of personal experiences that shape us and defines how we perceive our existence. “Everyday Use” is a story of conflict of right and wrong and also family values. Walkers’ narrator, “Mama”, struggles with her disrespectful daughter ‘Dee”. Though “Mama” was quoted to have worked hard like a man to send her to school gratitude is never mentioned. “Clearly, Dee privileges language over silence, as she demonstrates in her determination to be educated and in the importance she places on her name” (Tuten). Since “Dee” had been out of the house and to school in the city she had lost touch with where she came from and had little respect for the family heritage. Maggie having been burned in a house fire had learned to love the shelter that only a family can provide. Being burned makes you like no one else, everywhere you go you feel eyes looking. Since she had not been out of the house and had the time to learn the value of family she regarded the quilts as a part of her heritage.
Presenting the story from a third person perception and having the narration by the mother or “Mama” gives the story great relevance to real life situations that happen to anyone. Walker uses the symbolic two quilts to represent the true respects to sentimental value and preservation of family heritage. Nancy Tuten was quoted saying, “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). Because, the quilts had been made by the grandmother’s hands, the work that went into the quilts is the reason for importance of saving or preserving them as a family heirloom. “Maggie”, knows the true value of the quilts, “Dee” seems to view them as any other common blanket. Alice Walker stated in the story that Maggie felt like the world never learned to tell Dee no. That is a direct reference to the mother never standing up to Dee and asserting her rightful place.
The character types in this story would be one dynamic character, one flat, and one static character. The role of the dynamic character in the story is “Maggie”, the daughter that is described in detail as well as a very in-depth look at her personal psyche. How Walker builds her character in the story starting from meek and sheepish to end up being the justified victor in the end is classic dynamic...

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Essay about Everyday Use by Alice Walker

953 Words4 Pages

Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Through contrasting family members and views in "Everyday Use", Alice Walker illustrates the importance of understanding our present life in relation to the traditions of our own people and culture. Using careful descriptions and attitudes, Walker demonstrates which factors contribute to the values of one's heritage and culture; she illustrates that these are represented not by the possession of objects or mere appearances, but by one's lifestyle and attitude.

Throughout the story, Walker personifies the different sides of culture and heritage in the characters of Dee and the mother (the narrator). Dee can be seen to represent a materialistic, complex, and modern way of life where culture and heritage…show more content…

One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledgehammer and had the meat hung up to chill by nightfall.? (485). While these feats are not extraordinary, Walker exemplifies what Mother has learned from her ancestors, and that being resilient and tough is a part of her heritage. Mother is very proud of her abilities and accomplishments.

The mother, describes Dee as light skinned with nice hair and a full figure (486). She recounts Dee?s childhood and her appreciation of nice things. She was not the least upset when the family home burned to the ground while she was just a girl, ?Why don?t you do a dance around the ashes? I?d wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much.? (486)

Dee?s character in the story is a direct relation to any number of people in society that do not know or are confused about their heritage. She is struggling to create an identity for herself, and is confused as to what it encompasses. She grasps at African tradition and culture, yet fails to acknowledge her own African American culture. This happened all over America, particularly in the North, in the 1960?s, following the civil rights movement. Dee is misconstruing her heritage as material goods, as opposed to her ancestor?s habits and way of life. This may be due in part to her leaving her hometown and becoming an educated, sophisticated young woman. Dee?s direct heritage is that of African Americans.

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