Everyday Use By Alice Walker Essay
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Everyday Use By Alice Walker
In Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" Mama is the narrator. She speaks of her family of two daughters Maggie and Dee. Through the eyes of two daughters, Dee and Maggie, who have chosen to live their lives in very different manners, the reader can choose which character to identify most with by judging what is really important in one’s life. Throughout the story three themes consistently show. These themes show that the family is separated by shame, knowledge, and pride.
Maggie is shamed from her scares of being burnt by their previous house. As her mother describes, "She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to…show more content…
Maggie is mostly saying "Uhnnnh" if anything at all throughout the whole story. Mama portrays Maggie as a girl who “will stand hopelessly... homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs” from the fire, and who feels inferior to Dee (Walker 86). These burns and scars that Maggie has may be the reason of her lack of knowledge simply because she was ashamed to be in the learning atmosphere. Dee, unlike Maggie, is very brilliant. There seems to be some tension and or jealousy of how smart Dee is. Mama and Maggie used to listen to Dee read to them while they where trapped sitting there ignorantly. Mama said it was knowledge they didn't need to know. She also said that she often fought off the urge to shake her. Since Mama didn't get a chance to go to school, she feels inferior to Dee's skill of knowledge. Mama's tension is because she didn't get a chance to learn as much as Dee has (Walker 87-88).
Pride is the theme that seems to separate this family the most. It's having pride versus not having it. Maggie doesn't have it. She does not speak for herself when Dee wants the quilts. She lets mama speak for her. Like a scalded dog, she hides behind Mama when Dee arrives. Mama compares Maggie to a "Lame animal…run over by a car…"(Walker 88). Pride mostly comes from respect and she doesn't get much. Dee maybe has too much pride. This probably comes from "the world not knowing how to say no to her." She has looks and she's what one would describe as
In the story "Everyday Use" the readers get to see what a heritage meas to different people, that's why this story is an important one, in my opinion, to read to younger generations. Everyone has their own way of learning about their heritage and understanding what it means to them. They are allowed to have their own individual thoughts on their heritage and gather their own conclusions. That's what I loved because no two people are going to have the same ideas towards their heritage.
In the story there are two girls who show interests in their heritage, in very different ways. You have Dee who is self-centered, spoiled, and strong-willed. She wants the world to focus on her and she wants to show them how she came from nothing. So in order to capture this the author, Alice Walker, had Dee take a picture of her house so that Dee could show her friends that she came from a poor family and became something. She wanted to show how it doesn't matter where you come from as long as you have the drive to become something better. Dee put her heritage on display for dramatic superficial reasons. Then the author has Dee change her name to an African name "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo". Dee did so in order to acknowledge her heritage and where she came from; however, the rest of her family saw it as a joke. Then when asked why Dee changed her name she responded with: "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.". They didn't take her seriously.
Then we have the other sister, Maggie, who is Dee's shadow and is a push over. Maggie views heritage as a tradition, something to pass down from generation to generation. The readers see this in the story with the "quilt" and the "churn top". When Grandma gives Maggie a quilt for her wedding present Dee all of a sudden just has to have that quilt. To Dee it's a symbol, something else she can put on display. Maggie, on the other hand, knows the history behind this quilt and has her grandmother's memories and she doesn't need the quilt the way Dee does: "She can have them, Mama, I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts". Maggie doesn't need the objects because she has the memories, whereas Dee needs these objects because she isn't invested like Maggie is in their heritage. Then with the churn top Dee wants it for a decoration, once again to display her heritage. She has no meaning attached to this churn top except for what it represents: "Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee's butter dish. 'That's it!' she said. 'I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have.' She jumped up from the table and went over to the corner where the churn stood......'This churn top is what I need,' she said. 'Didn't Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all use to have?' This passage shows that Dee only wants pieces of her heritage, but not the stories behind them. What Maggie has are the stories behind these historical pieces. She values her heritage for what it's worth and for passing it on.