Everyday use by Alice Walker Essay

Good Essays
Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday use” tells the story of a mother and her daughter’s conflicting ideas about their identities and heritage. Mrs. Johnson an uneducated woman narrates the story of the day one daughter, Dee, visits from college. Mrs. Johnson auto-describes herself as a “big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.”(180,Walker). Contrasting her auto-description, she describes Dee as a young lady with light complexion, nice hair and full figure that “wanted nice things.”(181,Walker). The arrival of Dee to Mrs. Johnson’s house causes mixed emotions on Mrs. Johnson. Dee Johnson and Mrs. Johnson have differing viewpoints on heritage and each value possessions for different reasons. Dee’s superficiality and materialist ways…show more content…
“ A dress down to the ground… yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. Earrings gold, too…Bracelets dangling and making noises…” Her hair, “stands straight up like the wool on a sheep.” (183, Walker). This is how Mrs. Johnson describes her daughter‘s new appearance. Although Mrs. Johnson does not disapprove of Dee’s new African fashion she is not comfortable with it. Dee had taken on the task to flash her African roots while she failed to understand the true meaning of her heritage. Dee makes the mistake of believing that one’s heritage is something that one puts on to display. Mrs. Johnson does not display African fashion. Nonetheless she knows the true meaning of her heritage; something that Dee does not seem to understand. Through “Everyday use”, Walker conveys that culture and heritage are taught from one generation to the next and it is not suddenly acquired and definitely it is not something that one suddenly puts on.

Mother and daughter place different values on possessions for different reasons contributing to the conflict of heritage. While the Johnson’s sit down to lunch, Dee puts her eye on the butter churn and the dasher in her mother’s house. She admires the pieces and wants them to decorate her place. “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table…and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher.”(186,Walker). Mrs. Johnson sees these
Get Access