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Everyday Use

By student_01234 Oct 13, 2013 516 Words

“Everyday Use”
In Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use”, an African American woman living in the deep south known only as “Mama” narrates the story of the relationship between her daughters and herself. The story illustrates the difference between Mama and her shy younger daughter Maggie and her older educated daughter Dee. Dee has moved away from her family and is back with her fiancé to spend some quality time with them. Mama and Dee still cling to traditional black culture in the south while Dee disregards her lineage to adopt a “native African” selfhood. Alice Walker demonstrates the struggle between embracing one’s heritage and making one of your own as Dee shows how disconnected from her family she really is. From the beginning of the story, we realize Dee has moved away and become educated to a new generation of thinkers among African Americans. In light of the fact that the story was written in the 1970’s, it was a time of rediscovery for African Americans. In the story we are shown the two different sides: those who were able to educate themselves and those who remained in the oppression and poverty of their ancestors. As a teenager Dee was ashamed of her humble beginnings, she knew from a young age that this was not a life for herself. She hated everything about her lifestyle and when her childhood house had burned down her mother thought “why don’t you do a dance around the ashes, you hated the house that much”(257). Dee comes across as arrogant and insensitive, and Mama sees even her admirable qualities as annoying. Mama sees Dee’s thirst for knowledge as a way for her to assert her superiority over her and her sister. By claiming the new persona “Wangero”, Dee says that she is reclaiming her heritage, but she is actually rejecting it more than before by forbidding to associate with her familial ties. Dee prefers to live in this fantasy world of an idealized Africa instead of keeping the name that has been in her family since the civil war. Dee now lives an elegant lifestyle with her rich fiancé and only comes to the house to collect items she wishes to display artistically even though her family still uses them. “This churn top is what I need, I can use it as a centerpiece for the alcove table”(259), she says egotistically. It does not even cross her mind that her mother and sister may still need to use the churn. Dee is intrigued with the way they live, taking pictures as though they are subjects in a movie as another way to distance herself from her family. Instead of honoring and embracing her roots, Dee looks down on them believing to be above her family. Overall, Walker uses imagery, voice, and diction to paint the picture of how ignorant and prideful Dee is that she cannot accept where she has come from. The title itself is a symbol of how different Wangero is from her family, not wanting to put the quilts to “everyday use.”

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