May 22, 2014
Living the Heritage
The short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker (Norton 1530) is a story told in first person from the perspective of “Mama”. The piece depicts two sisters, Dee and Maggie, as opposites in their personality and way of living. While Maggie is shy and quiet, Dee is materialistic and bold. Furthermore, Maggie loves where she lives and her way of living. In contrast, Dee loves the urban life and wants to display her heritage when in reality she does not want to live it. This is evident when Walker describes the battle between the sisters for the quilts. Alice Walker not only portrays the rivalry between the two sisters but also uses the two characters, Dee and Maggie, as a symbol for the dichotomy in the idea of living the heritage.
Walker uses imagery in describing the characters to portray the rural and urban life. The mother is described as “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands… I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man” (1531). This indicates that the mother is accustomed to the farm life and has been living on the farm since childhood. Similar to the mother, Maggie also symbolizes the rural life. She has been living with her mother since she was born and has not lived in the city. In contrast, Walker describes Dee as an urbanized woman who lives in the city. It is stated when describing Dee that she wears “A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun… Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her shoulders” (1533). It is apparent that the mother loves both of her children but is more protective towards Maggie. This can be seen when the other describes Maggie as a “lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless rich enough to own a car” (1532).
The theme of an identity crisis was apparent in “Everyday Use.” It is apparent that Dee changed from a rural to urbanized woman. Walker first...
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