Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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Sarah Benesh
Dr. Susan Dauer
English 1102
2 Febuary 2011
Analyzation of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
In 1972, Alice Walker published “Everyday Use” in a collection of short stories In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black women. As better known “Everyday Use” stood out of the collection, it has become one of few short stories about the conflict black Americans faced after the Civil Rights Movement; The struggle to maintain traditions, whilst embracing new-found freedom, and where the two worlds collided. Discussing the reoccurring themes, symbols and motifs through the narrator’s perception, and actions will reveal if the character, and ultimately the reader himself has grown or remained static in affect of the conflict.

As stated above, once the Civil Rights movement ended and black Americans received the rights equal to a white American, a conflict between the old world and the new world collided. The assimilation of black Americans into the American way of life, the struggle to uphold traditions, and the quest to return to original African culture is a theme in “Everyday Use”. The narrator’s, “Mama”, perception of the world is small, in contrast to her daughter’s, “Dee”. When Dee returns, she has attempted to re-forge her African based culture and dismiss her history and “The people who oppress me” (Walker 454). She arrives bejeweled in gold, flaunting a flashy yellow African style dress, alongside her assumed boyfriend “Asalamalikim”. The ignorance of Mama of this being a term in Arabic meaning “Peace be upon you” (Anthology 454), which instead she mistakes as his name, displays the differentiation between Mama and Dee’s exposure to the world. The way in which she chose to fashion herself exudes the fact that she has no real understanding of African culture, and she is in favor of the American simulated construction of African culture. The quilts become a symbol of the collaboration of their family histories into tangible evidence in “Everyday...
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