Alice Walker’s Short Story Everyday Use Essay

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Alice Walker’s Short Story “Everyday Use”

In Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use,” tells us a story of two daughters’, Dee and Maggie Johnson, with different ideas about their identities and values. Dee a young woman who, in the course of a visit to the rural home she thinks she has outgrown, attempts unsuccessfully to divert some fine old quilts ,earmarked for the dowry of a sister, into her own hands. Dee is Mrs. Johnson’s oldest daughter, the one who has always been determined, popular, and successful. Maggie is her young sister who was severely burned in the house fire as a child. She is still lives with her mother in poverty, putting “priceless” objects to “everyday use.” A similar view is expressed by Houston Baker and
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Mama, with grudging admiration remembers Dee as a fearless girl. While Mama imagines herself unable to look at people in the eye, talking to them only “with one foot raised in flight,” (103) Dee however, “would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature” (103).She goes on to say Dee is self-centered and demanding but also remembers this daughter as a determined fighter. Dee is concerned with style, but she will do whatever is necessary to improve her circumstance. For instance, when Dee wanted a new dress, she had to “make over” a green suit someone had given her mother.
Maggie a victim of fear since she was burned by the fire, Mama describes her as “a lame animal, perhaps a dog” (103). She says, “That is the way Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire burned the other house to the ground” (104).
The major difference between the two sisters is the understanding of heritage. More critics see Dee’s education and her insistence on reading to Mama and Maggie as evidence of her separation from the lack of understanding of her family identity and heritage. Nancy Tuten, for instance argues that, in this story:
Walker stresses not only the importance of language but also the destructive effects of its use …Rather than providing a medium for newfound awareness and for community…verbal skills equip Dee to oppress
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