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Everyday Use

By sweetthing2214 Apr 11, 2007 535 Words
"Everyday Use"
Alice Walker's modern classic "Everyday Use" tells the story of a mother and her two daughters conflicting ideas about their identities and ancestry. The mother narrates, in first person, because Mama can characterize her daughters and herself in an unbiased light that only a mother could love or know. the story takes place of the day the oldest daughter, Dee, visits from college and clashes with the other daughter, Maggie, over the possession of heirloom quilts. The story begins with the narrator, a "big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands" awaiting the homecoming of her daughter Dee, an educated woman who now lives in the city. Accompanying her is her younger daughter, Maggie, a shy girl who regards her sister with a "mixture of envy and awe." As they wait, the narrator reveals details of the family history, specifically the relationship between her two girls. A fire when they were children destroyed their first house and left Maggie badly scarred on her arms and legs. Maggie tries to impress Dee by dressing up for her arrival. Mama is ashamed of their house and knows Dee will disapprove, as she did with the old house. To her amazement Dee takes picture after picture of Mama and Maggie making sure the house is in the background. Mama and Maggie have a strong connection since they were both involved in the fire.

The contrast between Dee's beliefs and those of her mother and sister is emphasized by the different values the characters place on some old quilts and other objects in the home. The main theme in the story concerns the characters' connections to their ancestral roots. Dee believes that she is affirming her African heritage by changing her name, her mannerisms, and her appearance, even though her family has lived in the United States for several generations. Dee puts on glasses that cover most of her facial features. Like a mask to hid what she is humiliated ethnic features. Maggie and Mama are confused and seem to be intimidated by her new name "Wangero." Their own connections to their heritage rest on their memories of their mothers and grandmothers; they prefer to remember them for who they were as individuals, not as members of a particular race. Because of their differing viewpoints, each values the Johnson's possessions for different reasons. Dee digs around the house for objects she can display in her own house in the city. The pictures Dee takes are they keepsakes of the families life or art work of photographs for her apartment. At dinner Dee comes across a churn that has been past down from generation to generation, there are descent finger indentions in the wood. Which shows the hard work still being used by Mama and Maggie. Dee has been in the city that it comes across that she has forgotten how her family lives day by day.

The place where you hang your hat, where your heart is, a link to the past, and through its door one walks into the future: home can be many things to one person. The place where the family line can be traced from memories and keepasakes.

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