Everyday Use By Alice Walker

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Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a short story included in her collection In Love and Trouble published in 1973. The story’s setting takes place in the Deep South during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s as many “blacks” were struggling to define their cultural identities (White). Traditions and culture in “Everyday Use” is portrayed contrastingly between Ms. Johnson and Maggie, who still follow rural black cultural of the south and Dee who has newly adopted a “native African” culture. An encounter over the use of quilts simplifies into two different interpretations of culture. Walker uses symbolism and contrasting characters to portray these interpretations and implies that culture and heritage are a part of everyday life.
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Walker is implying that Mama is comfortable with herself and accepts the reality of her body. Mrs. Johnson is at home with herself and through this short description Walker implies Mama’s acceptance and comfort in traditional ways and where she stands in relation to culture (Velazquez).
Comparatively, Mrs. Johnson’s timid, maladjusted, young daughter, Maggie, is like her mother. Mama describes Maggie as a “lame animal”. After being left with an ugly scare from a childhood fire, she lives at home under the protection of Mama, untouched by society. Her solitude and lack of education have left Maggie adversely shy, but Mama is plain-spoken about Maggie’s problems. “Sometimes Maggie reads to me. She stumbles along good naturedly but can’t see well. She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passes her by” (Walker, 521). Maggie represents purity and innocence and Mama has sympathy for her daughter. Maggie is much like her mother and traditions of their heritage have been passed down to Maggie through Mama such as learning how to quilt.
On the other hand, Dee is the opposite of Maggie. She is characterized by attractiveness, desire, and education. Her education is most important in characterizing Dee and essentially shapes her opposing values which separate her from her family. Mama comments on Dee’s education several times: “She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, and other folks’ habits... She washed us in a
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