Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use” stresses the importance of family heirlooms and the tradition of passing down artifacts from generation to generation. One of the main characters is the narrator Mrs. Johnson or “Mama.” She is the mother of two very different girls named Maggie and Dee. Throughout the short story we learn a lot about Mama and her character traits. She has had a very difficult life. Mama is a poor African-American woman, but she is strong and independent. She is a very hardworking individual. Mama’s strength and honesty are depicted especially well during the conflict that arises with Dee regarding the handmade family quilts.
Mama grew up in a different time, when colored people in the world had few civil liberties. “I never had an education myself. After second grade the school was closed down.” (Walker 7) Growing up without an education makes for a very difficult life. “It is three rooms, just like the one that burned, except the roof is tin; they don’t make shingle roofs anymore.” (Walker 8) Mama quite obviously is still living in poverty from the description of her home. She is living in a tiny three room home in a rural area.
Mama compares herself to a man when it comes to working. “In real life I an a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.” (Walker 6) “I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man.” (Walker 6) This is an example of Mama’s strength and her willingness to survive. Any woman who can butcher a hog has to have a strong will. She is a very powerful woman and isn’t afraid to work hard. She compares her strength to that of a man.
When Dee or Wangero returns home to visit her family a conflict arises between her and her mother. She asks her mother for some handmade quilts and Mama tells her that she had already promised these quilts to Maggie. Dee argues with Mama and explains that Maggie can’t possibly appreciate the handmade quilts as a symbol of the family heritage. Dee also...
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