English 1213. 103
September 28th, 2011
Analysis of Everyday use
The story of “Everyday Use”, by Alice Walker is being told by an African American mother living in the deep south with one of her two daughters.” The mother is telling a story of her daughters, Dee, who visits from college and argues with the other, Maggie, over the possessions of some heirloom quilts”. “Everyday Use”, by Alice Walker is also a story of a mother and her two daughters’ conflicting ideas about the identities and ancestry, what is beautiful, attractive and unattractive, as well as rural, sophisticated, educated and uneducated.
Dee’s mama (narrator) admits to her readers that she’s a solid “Big Boned” woman who was built for work. Dee finds her mom’s style of doing things unattractive since it does not suit her ideal of what a modern black woman should look like. Mama realizes that she will never be that 100 pounds lighter, white complected and a well-educated woman Dee wants her to be. Mama she takes pride in the work she does, The work which bothers Dee dearly. There is no right or wrong way for a person
to be. Maggie (Younger sister) is always shy and nervous around or upon Dee’s arrivals. Maggie stays nervous from the time Dee arrives, to the time Dee leaves. Maggie has very low self-esteem because of her burn scars. When Dee arrives, Maggie trys to look her best by putting on her best clothes. Dee is viewing the way she walks, she compares her to a lame animal. As mama says, “She looks like a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car”. Maggie has a way of keeping her family tradition alive. Dee (Older Sister) sees herself as belonging to a higher intellectual and social class than Mama and Maggie, and they should feel honored by her presence but they are humiliated instead. When Dee went off to college, she found no interest in the traditional name she inherited. Mama didn’t like the name change, but knew she had no choice but to accept it. The name Dee was very traditional and became very useful. Dee’s outside education is the reason for all conflicts.
Like many stories, Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" contains opening and closing segments which are in sharp contrast to each other. The different styles in which the first and last portions of the story represent the significant changes experienced by Maggie and her mother. These changes, brought on by a brief visit from Maggie's older, and more worldly sister, Dee. The opening scene in "Everyday ...
Since Mom and Maggie are so useful, they think the quilts should be used and decorative. However, Dee, with her different educational traditions, believes that they should not be used and should stand for something very traditional and become useful since they connected one family member to another. Dee didn’t want the quilts for their sentimental value which they carried for the rest of the family, she wanted to put them on display. She wanted to hang them on the wall so that her conceited friends would think she was perhaps better than she was. Dee’s friends think she didn’t come from somewhere but in Dee’s reality she came a very long way. She had the culture and the heritage which she was trying to display at her disposal from the day
she was born. Maggie, on the other hand, embraced her heritage from the beginning. She learned from her mother the ways of her culture. She understood where she fit into the picture as a whole and she was satisfied with her place unless Dee was around to make her feel bad. When Dee asked her mother for the quilts, Maggie overheard. After their mom attempted to distract Dee’s desire onto some of the other quilts, Dee again tore Maggie down as she had for their whole life.
Baker, Houston A. and Baker, Charlotte Pierce. "Patches: Quilt and Community in Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'." Short Story Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction Writers. Gale Research Inc. , 1990. 5: 415-416 In a critique titled "Patches: Quilt and Community in Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'" (Short Story Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction ...
Maggie prefers to live a traditional, rural life while Dee, who is more successful, avoids the rural life and prefers a more modern, sophisticated living. The rural setting that Dee’s Mama is distracted and is based on the idea of hard work. Her Mama and Maggie do not have the time, education, or motivation to think deeply about race, racism, or equality and her mother admits that she “would not even be able to look a white man in the face”. Dee, on the other hand, although she is originally from the country, eventually moves away and is exposed to ideas about racial equality. This, combined with her urban education, makes her view matters of race differently and causes the inherent conflict between her and her family’s ideals.
There is a tension between Dee and her family because of her outside education. She is no longer tied to the world of everyday usefulness or working around the land and or the house. There is more related to the world of education and a more delicate kind of usefulness. For her Mama, the situation is quite the opposite. Her knowledge is useful and grounded in her everyday tasks. She gives a summary of her farm-related accomplishments and brags of being able to kill a hog like a man and can
cook and take care of the farm. Because the reader gets the sense that her mom has a lower educational tradition that emphasizes usefulness, she is at odds with the educational traditions of her daughter, Dee, who has been to school away from home. This tension between educational traditions is one of the main themes in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker and is clear after Dee’s Mama details what she knows about farm tasks. When she discusses her daughter’s educational traditions, she speaks almost respectfully saying, (Pge 934, 10).
“She used to read to us without pity, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know.” To her Mama, Dee’s knowledge is foreign and is touched with a part of danger since it includes “lies” and “other folks’ habits” and worse yet, it makes her mother and sister, who have a different tradition of learning feel “ignorant and trapped” with knowledge that Dee’s Mama feels is not necessary.
The place where you hang your hat, where the heart is, is a link to the past, and through its door one walks into the future: home can be many things t one person. To many Georgians, home is the place where they come from, the place where the family line can be traced from memories and keepsakes. In "Everyday Use", Alice Walker explores the importance of home to a family of three women in Georgia. ...
It is never clear if Alice Walker in “Everyday Use” is trying to express the belief that one set of traditions is better than the other. Instead, it seems that she is trying to show how Dee’s educational background makes her see life different. It demonstrates that traditions are changeable and can be changed over time in the right personality exist.
In the short story of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, Sam Whitsitt talks about the ways things are generated from one family to another. This story also defines the identity of each daughter and what is urban and rural.
Maggie appreciates the quilts’ connection to her family. By allowing Maggie to have the quilts, they will have a chance to circulate through the generations to come. Sam Whitsitt, “The quilts might leave the home, but how they do so is significant. They must move through the hands of Mama and Maggie”. Maggie wasn’t lucky enough to be sent off to school, and therefore has to work extremely hard to have anything at all.
Years ago men expected women to be stay at home mothers who didn’t do anything but wash, clean, cook and sew. Not only men but women also felt that women should know how to figuratively sew. Which means write as if you were really sewing. Sam Whitsitt believes sewing (quilting) is metaphorically used in the story. He thinks that sewing in the story is actually writing and not many people recognizes the many metaphors this story have. Which I have to disagree because I don’t recall anything that pointed out that quilting (sewing) is really talking about figuratively writing.
The story ends with Mama choosing Maggie and rejecting Dee. Dee didn’t see how selfish she was being to her family. Thats why I feel the story is not metaphorically speaking about writing.
In "An End to Audience?" , Margaret Atwood discusses the responsibilities of fiction writers. She believes that the function of a fiction writer is to examine society in ways "through which we can see ourselves and the ways in which we behave towards each other" (17). Another responsibility for an artist is to speak out the forbidden and be the voice of the powerless. These theories can be applied ...