Everyday Use Essay

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In the short story, Everyday Use by Alice Walker, we get a look in to the lives of an African American family living in the south. The plot of the story is simple enough, a woman who is to make a decision of to whom she will give away two quilts. The oldest daughter, Dee, sees the quilts as cultural fashion while Maggie, the younger daughter, sees them as precious pieces of the people in her past. Walker illustrates an absolute contrast between the two daughters not only in their appearance but also their behavior and ideas.

The story opens with Mama and Maggie waiting in the yard for Dee to visit. Mama is the narrator so we get a clear view on how she perceives things and feels about her surroundings. Her description of the yard as a pleasant place where, “anyone can come back and look up at the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house” shows that she enjoys the simple things in life. She is content in the basic pleasure that her surroundings give her. Cultural heritage, sophistication, or racial movements have nothing to do with her happiness and contentment in life. She is a strong woman with somewhat masculine attributes, “In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day.” She’s shown to have worked hard all her life and is a caring and loving mother. She’s raised her daughters being the mother and father, clothed and fed them, even managed to get Dee into college. She was a remarkable woman.

Maggie is very much like her mother, she too still lives on the family farm and pretty much lives the way she always has. Walker shows through Maggie how heritage can pass from one generation to the next. Maggie has always lived in the shadow of her sister. Mama’s sympathy for Maggie is evident when she says, “Have you ever seems a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up...
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