Literary Criticism of "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker

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Paper on "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker
Cross Cultural Literature
4/14/08
The book "Approaching Literature in the 21st Century" by Peter Shackel and Jack Ridl is filled with various themes involving parents and their children. There are three specific stories that focus on mothers and daughters that I will use for this paper. The stories are Daughter of Invention by Julia Alvarez, Everyday Use by Alice Walker and Two Kinds by Amy Tan. These stories are similar in many ways in general, like they all involve a mother who has influenced her daughter’s life or involve a parent and their child. From another perspective though, all three stories are very different in regards to the individual relationships that each mother/daughter pair has. I will try to show how these stories reflect an aspect of living that most can relate to, like mother's and daughter's, and yet also show the difference that comes from each person being created a bit differerent within this interrelatedness. In plain English this would mean, how we are all alike and yet how we are all unique.

In showing similarities with these three stories and their use of the mother/daughter theme, Everyday Use shows us a hard-working African American mother and her two very different daughters, one who is meek and shy and the other who is arrogant and judgmental of her family. The audience knows that the mother loves her daughter’s because of the intimate way that only a mother would know her daughter. The mother speaks of her daughter Dee’s homecoming after being away saying, “I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon…Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mix of envy and awe.”(p101). Two Kinds, by Amy tan shows us a single child whose Asian American mother had big dreams for her success which ultimately lead her away from her mother, only to reunite with her in the end, after her mother died. This story also shows the dedication and unfaltering love that this mother has for her daughter. Describing her mother the daughter says, “My mother believed that you could be anything that you wanted to be in America…”Of course you can be a prodigy, too,” my mother told me when I was nine. “you can be best anything.”(p189) Lastly, Daughter of Invention is about a Dominican mother who is an inventor and who is always trying to create improvements in things from her experiences with them in real life. She tries to make a can opener/bumper, for those picnics when one is far away from home and need to open canned goods. The daughter is inspired from her mother’s inventions and only after growing up can she really appreciate them. Speaking on how she felt as a little child the main character, the daughter, says, “I suppose none of her daughters was very encouraging. We resented her spending time on those dumb inventions. Here we were trying to fit in America among Americans; we needed help figuring who we were…and here was our own mother, who didn’t have a second to help us puzzle any of this out, inventing gadgets to make life easier for American mom. Why it seemed as if she were arming our own enemy against us!”(p13). Later on in the story, as it progresses, the narrator is looking back on events in her life and speaks quite differently about her mother’s inventions. She says, “But her inventing days were over just as mine were starting up with my schoolwide success. That’s why I always thought of that speech which my mother wrote for me as her last invention rather than the suitcase rollers everyone else in the family remembers.”(p18).

The differences in mothering styles are reflected in the adult children’s recollection of memories from childhood. There memories show different values and beliefs of the mother’s. Maggie and Dee’s mother, in Everyday Use, was a...
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