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Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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Analyzing Characters in Fiction: Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Nathaniel Rodgers

English Comp. II

Professor Linda Loring

August 26, 2013

In this essay I will be analyzing the character in the Fiction Everyday Use by Alice Walker. This was is an excellent short story that takes place in the rural southern parts of America. The exact location of this story is not made known to the reader but subtle clues such as jargon used, description of the environment, and content of the conversation allows the reader to decipher the which geographical region of the world thee story is taking place in.
Alice Walker’s story Everyday Use deals with the relationship between a mother and her two daughters Maggie and Dee. In this essay we will be examining the characters, analyzing how each person’s personalities and actions affects their relationships with their family.
The first character we are introduced to in the story is the mother. Her character stands as the lead commentator to what is transpiring in the story being the view point for the reader. This fact alone gives us some insight into the personality of Mama; she is a strong mother and the leader of the household, the moral compass of the family giving insight into what ought to be done amongst the family. Mama is not described as a very beautiful woman by her own description she states, “In real life I am a large, big boned woman with rough, man working hands” (Walker. 1973). By no means do you find self-esteem or self-worth problems in Mama. Her honesty in the description of herself shows her love and acceptance of who she is and how she looks. Mama never had a formal education pass the second grade but she is a fierce worker who not only can but takes pride doing hard manual labor and can work as hard as her male counterparts.
Mother is a static character because her strength never changes throughout the story. This strength is demonstrated throughout the story plays as the balance between the characters and ultimately the prevailing power in the struggle of control, power, and justice. Through the loving eyes of the strong Mama character the reader is given a true look at her loving daughter’s faults and strengths equally revealed.
As the story unfolds we find Mama stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand she has her beautiful, intelligent, worldly daughter Dee full of self-confidence, pride, and passion who had the opportunity to be schooled in Augusta. Dee was described by Mama as “at sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (Walker. 1973). Dee was strong willed and strong minded.
On the other hand Mama had her other daughter who was the direct opposite of Dee. Maggie was insecure, slim, and due to a childhood house fire was now the downer of burn scars. Her self-esteem went up in flames like their childhood home leaving her to become so self-conscience that she now keep her “chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle” (Walker. 1973). Though engaged to John Thomas Maggie still stays at home with her Mama looking for her strength and protection because “she knows she in not bright: (Walker. 1973).
Mama and Maggie are similar in their calm simple ways and to a certain extent they both were having mixed feelings about seeing Dee after so many years. Before sending Dee away Mama already felt that Dee did not like Maggie and looked down upon them both because she was smarter and more beautiful than the two of them.
Mama and Maggie where both in for a surprise when Dee finally did arrive because Dee had not only decided to change her name but her self-perception and the way she viewed the world around her. She now wanted to be referred to as Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, sheading her birth given name because she, “couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppressed me” (Walker. 1973). Her travels and studies had enlightened her to the history and culture of her people and now she had returned home not to see the one who gave birth to her or the sister that shared the journey of the early years of her life but to strip away precious family heirlooms that at one time did not hold any significance or value to her from the one who birthright they were, Maggie’s.
Mama finds herself in the middle of a power struggle. On one hand a daughter who has had the opportunity to experience what some may consider the good life and on the other hand a humble daughter who has already experience to much pain and not enough joy filled moments trying to hold on to what’s rightfully hers. We find three different dynamics at work at one time. In Wangero we find pride, arrogance, insensitivity, and selfishness. In Maggie we find meekness and submissiveness, and in Mama we find strength and wisdom.
Though conflict erupts between these family members about the passing on of the family heirlooms one thing stays constant, Mamas strength. The author keeps alluding to this monarch’s strength throughout the story from her honest description of her daughter’s personalities, to the in-depth explanation of the dilemma that unfolded, and through the conclusion of the story were strength and wisdom prevailed in her deciphering who would keep the quilts.
Mama symbolizes the loving parent that all children need, from infancy throughout adulthood. That good and shining moral compass that continues to give direction and wisdom to children who may not always follow or grasp what has been passed down to them. When leaving for school Dee looked down upon the quilts made by her ancestors but Maggie embraced them. Some lessons are learned late but a good, strong, loving parent will always be there to set the wrongs right bringing clarity and peace to the situations.

Reference
Walker, A. (1973). Everyday Use. Retrieved from xroads.virginia.edu/~ug97/quilt/walker.htm. Retrieved on August 25, 2013.

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