Everyday Use Symbolism

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“Family” differs in meaning for each and every individual. Memories can either break down the mind, or be a recipe for success. We as a society all come from different backgrounds, some more pleasant than others, but no two families are the same. Ancestors, culture, and heritage bring us all together, but not everyone is capable of visioning that. Human beings do not ask to be born, it just so happens to be our natural instincts, so we must adjust to the circumstances we are placed in. Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” portrays characterization, symbolism, and conflict through pain in family differences. First, Walker opens the story with heavy characterization on Mrs. Johnson character, Dee and Maggie’s mother. She describes her home, her yard, …show more content…

Dee’s male companion, for example, has taken a Muslim name and now refuses to eat pork and collard greens, thus refusing to take part in the traditional African-American culture. Mrs. Johnson, meanwhile, has “man-working hands” and can “kill a hog as mercilessly as a man” clearly this detail is meant to indicate a rough life, with great exposure to work. Symbolic meaning can also be found in Maggie’s skin; her scars are literally the inscriptions upon her body of the ruthless journey of life. Mrs. Johnson explains, “Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie’s arm sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames reflected in them” (2). Most obviously—and most importantly—the quilts that Mrs. Johnson has promised to give Maggie when she marries are highly symbolic, representing the Johnsons’ traditions and cultural heritage. These quilts were “pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee”, both figures in family history who, unlike the present Dee, took charge in teaching their culture and heritage to their loved ones. Cowart theorizes, “The quilts that Wangero covets link her generation to prior generations, and thus they represent the larger African American past. The visitor rightly recognizes the quilts as part of a fragile

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