Symbolism and Theme in Everyday Use

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The short story Everyday Use by Alice Walker differentiates between a fake and a real heritage. To illustrate her point she uses one family consisting of a mother and her two daughters and the way each of them views their ancestry and heritage. Through the behavior of these three people Walker is able to clearly show the little things that separate a real heritage from the assumed fake mask. During the time of many positive changes to the lives of black people across the America, the author illustrates what the true African American heritage should look like, compared to empty claims by those who have no understanding it. The first and perhaps the least complex of the symbols in the story is Mama’s yard. In the very beginning of the story Mama says: “I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon” (Walker 491). It is significant that the story starts out right in the yard, which shows how important it probably is to Mama. The further sentences continue on this idea as Mama keeps talking about the yard as the extension of her living room and a place where anyone can sit and enjoy a nice day in peace and quiet. In a way this yard represents freedom for Mama, as it is the only place where she can get away and maybe forget for a second about her difficult hard-working life and many negative events of the past. So it’s no wonder that of all the places, she chooses to have her yard clean, enjoyable and welcoming as it is. It also makes sense that when her older daughter Maggie decides to visit Mama does an even better job to make sure that the yard, as her favorite and best feature of the house, stays nearly perfect. The freedom of the yard can be also compared to the vigorous action and all of the arguments that seem to happen inside of the house. Once again Mama narrates: “After dinner Dee (Wangero) went to the trunk and started rifling through it. Maggie hung back in the kitchen over the dishpan” (495). It’s...
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