Everyday Use - Reading Commentary

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Everyday Use – by Alice Walker

Everyday Use brought the readers an insightful dimension in seeing African’s art - quilt. As Quilts are expensive handmade artwork, the public normally neglects the meanings they carry and sees them as something “beautifully crafted” and “classy”. Sadly, in Everyday Use, Walker hinted that some Africans were also ignorant about the significances of quilts.

Walker’s ideas were depicted through Dee’s behaviours and the subtle use of dialogues. For instance, Dee suddenly changed her name to Wangero (a seemingly more “African” feeling name) because she overlooked that her name was came from her great grandmother and believed that Dee was not “African” enough. Besides, Dee saw the quilt as “old-fashioned” and “out of style” when she was young. Yet, after knowing the economic value of the quilt, she immediately switched her descriptions to “priceless” and even feared that the quilt would be “in rags” if it was used daily. Lastly, when being asked what she would do with the quilt, Dee answered in a definite tone “Hang them.” The above indicated that she was clueless about her own culture. Dee’s actions broke her mum’s heart and lost the favour she long possessed over her sister, Maggie. Dee’s “failure” suggested that becoming part of a culture is not done by superficial pretense; rather it should be done wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, Maggie, a timid and less-civilized figure at the beginning, was granted the right to inherit the quilt from her mum at the end of the story. Maggie was no longer the inferior one not simply because she knew how to quilt, it was her realization that the quilt is not a frozen timepiece of art for “hanging up” and it must be kept alive by everyday renewal that touched her mum.

Through Everyday Use, Walker tells the readers that a quilt is more than just being “expensive”. It represents the ancestral root of an African family, women’s spirit to carry on a tradition and an unrecognized female...
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