November 29, 2007
November 29, 2007
Everyday Use by Alice Walker:
Feminism & African-American Criticism
Alice Walker’s Everyday Use tells the story of a mother and her two daughters who live in the rural South. Ms. Johnson, the narrator of the story is a middle aged African-American woman who has single handily struggled to raise her two daughters while taking care of the household chores. Walker explains the significant differences between the narrator’s daughters. The older daughter Dee is a well educated and sophisticated young lady who leaves home to obtain additional education. Maggie, the very shy and traditionally skilled daughter suffers physically and emotionally from a house fire. Ms. Johnson mentions how beautiful Dee’s feet are and how “God himself had shaped them with a certain style” and later refers to Maggie’s walk as that of a lame animal. (Walker 327) Dee is the child that receives everything that she wants and does not understand the meaning of no and there is Maggie who is used to never winning. The story ends with an argument over a family heirloom, quilts that have been passed down from generations. Dee wants the quilts but Ms. Johnson has already promised the quilts to Maggie. Walker describes Mrs. Johnson as a hard working loving mother never showing favoritism towards either of her daughters. She characterizes the narrator as an uneducated but wise mother. Each character in the story has their own unique personality and each unique character is easily identifiable in every African-American woman. This paper will carefully analyze Alice Walker’s, Everyday Use and reveal the African-American culture and Walker’s feministic approach. As stated in an article in the Oxford University Press titled The Feminist Approach, “Feminist criticism has affinities with a number of other critical approaches, especially with cultural studies” (Oxford 234)
Prior to the nineteenth century many African-American women struggled for manhood and not race or gender as documented in Hazel V. Carby’s, Reconstructing Womanhood, “From the late nineteenth century onward, Black women had articulated the links between racism and patriarchal power. But their insights found voice primarily in fiction and women’s organization, not in historical writing. Ignoring this Black feminist tradition, the revisionist historians of the 1960s collapsed the categories of race and gender: the struggle for “manhood” served as a central metaphor for the valorization of African-American culture.” African-American culture has embraced quilting as a tradition for centuries. “Perhaps the most resonant quality of quilt making is the promise of creating unity amongst disparate elements, of establishing connections in the midst of fragmentation.” Walker included the quilt in the story to explain African-American heritage and the creativity of African-Americans. Walker is not the first African-American author to introduce the importance of quilting as a tradition of African-Americans. In Sam Whitsitt’s article, In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, the author states that Walker is the first to articulate the value of quilting. The quilts in Walker’s story were made out the narrator’s deceased grandmother’s old dresses and scraps that the narrator’s grandmother made with her own hands.” They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them. One was in the Lone Star pattern. The other was Walk Around the Mountain. In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had woven fifty more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jattell's Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the...