Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a thought-provoking story that fixates on the overall theme of heritage. The narrator, “Mama”, is waiting on the arrival of her eldest daughter, Dee. As Dee arrives with her male friend, Hakim-a-barber, she suddenly admires her African heritage. So much in fact, that she changes her name to a traditional African one: Wangero. Mama sees through Dee’s act and contemplates which daughter to pass on the family quilts to. This situation manifests itself to become the major conflict with the meaning of culture throughout the story. The conflict carries the theme about the interpretations people may have about their own heritage. Walker uses tone to illustrate each family member’s perspective on Dee’s heritage.
Gerald Early, the author of the essay Life with Daughters, describes the hardships of being African American especially when trying to raise two daughters who don’t believe they are beautiful . Early’s purpose is to inform the reader of all the difficulties that black girls face growing up in a society who has defined beauty with the image of a white, skinny blonde. He adopts a bitter tone in order to point out all of the difficulties these girls face in order to appeal to similar feelings and experiences of other African American girls their parents.
In her short story “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker summarizes the representation of the beauty, the conflicts and struggles within African-American culture. “Everyday Use” focuses mainly between members of the Johnson family, consisting of a mother and her two daughters. One of the daughters Maggie, who was injured in a house fire and has living a shy life clinging to her mother for security. Her older sister is Dee, who grew up with a grace and natural beauty. “Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure… (716) She also grew up determined to have a better life than her mother and sister. This takes place when Dee (the only family member to receive a formal education) returns to visit Dee’s mother and younger sister Maggie. Again this portrays a slight issue between two different views of the African-American culture. Alice uses symbolism to empathize the difference between these interpretations, showing that culture and heritage are parts of daily life. The title of the story, Everyday Use, symbolizes the living heritage of the Johnson family, a heritage that is still in “everyday use”.
“ 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.
When Alice begins to grow forgetful at first she discards it, but when she gets lost in her own neighborhood, she realizes that something is terribly wrong. She didn't want to become someone people avoided and feared. She wanted to live to hold her daughter, Anna’s, baby and know she was holding her grandchild. She wanted to watch her youngest daughter, Lydia act in something she was proud of. She wanted to see her son, Tom, fall in love. She wanted to be able to read every book she could before she could no longer read. Alice once placed her worth and identity in her academic life, now she must examine her relationship with her husband, her expectations of her daughters and son and her plans for herself. “Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she
She recalls her mother’s comments, “Could you imagine if she had light skin at all? [With her features] she’d be gorgeous” (Dark Girls). This shows the extent to which the color complex affected the minds of most people including mothers- the way they viewed their children. Both the book and the film show how colorism affected notions of beauty within the African American
I will be focusing this paper on the reasons why Maggie should be given the quilts, reasons why Dee should not be allowed to take them, and what this tell us about Alice Walker’s sense of what it means to be in touch with one’s heritage.
In the early 1970s, the Black Power movement was not only a political slogan against racism, but also an ideology that promoted racial pride and embraced the elements of the African culture. During this time, many African-Americans were encouraged to grow their hairs into afros, wear traditional African clothing, and reject their white slave names. In the story Everyday Use, Alice Walker presents a family with opposing views towards tradition and creates a character fooled by the Black Power movement. The author uses irony to reveal a meaning of heritage hidden under the perceived idea of African-American identity.
One’s identity is composed of multiple aspects of physical appearance to intelligence to experiences to ancestry. Many of these features can be manipulated or altered to please the individual. One can dye their hair to look different or use big words to appear more intelligent. What can not truly change, however, is one’s heritage. In the short story “Everyday Use (for your grandmama)” by Alice Walker, Dee simultaneously rejects her family history and identity while also fabricating an artificial African heritage, disconnecting Dee from her roots.
To fully understand the meaning behind the way that she learned to be herself one must summarize the story. During the essay, Alice was always the best at what she did in the early years of growing up. She was beautiful and everyone around her knew it, including herself. One day while she was playing with her brothers, and was blasted with an excruciating amount of pain to her right eye. Later to find out her brother shot her with a BB gun. After lying to her parents about the ordeal, they took her to the doctor a week later. He basically told her that their is nothing that he could do, and that their will be a white blog in her eye. After the visit the narrator become down on herself, and starting becoming bad in school. She then later on in life removed the white blob, and became a happy warm hearted person once again.
Morrison uses the examples of Shirley Temple, a popular, white child actress during the time period, and popular dolls in the 1940s to show the effect that mass culture had on young black women. It is ironic when Claudia states that unlike older, young black girls around her, her hatred for whiteness has not yet turned to love. As a naive child, Claudia, who doesn’t see the beauty that others see in popular children’s dolls, takes apart her doll to find its beauty, thinking that its beauty must be physically inside of it. She has yet to learn that, in the society she lives in, beauty is dictated by cultural norms, meaning that the doll itself is only beautiful because popular culture views whiteness as superior to everything else. Claudia’s
As her daughter arrives, she looks around the yard and recalls the old house. The old house which went up in flames and terribly burned Maggie, her youngest girl. Dee, however, was happy to see it go up in a blaze. In her eyes, the house was a disgrace. The older of the two girls, she liked the finer things in life. She was energetic and loved to stand out through her personality and clothes. The colorful clothes she was wearing when she arrived made this obvious. Dee, who changed her name to Wangero after joining “…the radical, black nationalists of the 1960s and 1970s…,” was now promoting”… a suddenly fashionable, or stylish, interest in what she passionately describes as her ‘heritage’” (416). Through the influence of American fashion, Wangero corresponds her own style to the notion that black is beautiful. The girl who once despised African custom now supports the traditions and wants to acquire the precious quilts made by her grandmother which were promised to her sister. However, Dee only shows her detachment from traditional ways by wanting the quilts because they are “fashionable” and “priceless” (416). Just as the fire symbolized her role in relation to her community, so does the desire to obtain the quilts. She insists on having what she is told to be stylish.
The emotional focus of Alice Walker's story is rage, red-hot and isolating. As I read this piece, I became livid, not only at the thought of her devastating
In this story, Alice Munro describes a slice of life story for a young girl who has her first encounter of being dumped. Though, in her family they rarely drink if at all, not the same was expected of her. She herself thought of her mother as a very cunning and convincing person even though she was mostly very unemotional but was able to make a good impression when necessary. She was shaped by her inability to come to terms with her breakup through how she got drunk and by almost committing suicide via aspirin though, she stopped herself after the sixth aspirin. It shows how her character developed to be able to relive those memories with a hint of fondness for she wouldn’t be who she was today without them. It shaped her to be a more to be
Characters Claudia and Frieda MacTeer show envious disapproval towards Maureen Peal, a wealthy and stylish lighter-skinned African American girl who the girls refer to as a “disrupter of seasons” (62). Maureen’s character introduces the disruptive and wealthy society within the novel making the division between classes in black culture more apparent. The girls—clearly representing separate societal classes—do not relate to one another despite their shared race. Verifying that Maureen defines perfection in a black society, Claudia and Frieda had to “[look] hard to find [Maureen’s] flaws to restore [their] equilibrium” (63). The self-conscious girls literally search for any apparent faults middle-class Maureen may have in order to make themselves feel better about their “less beautiful” appearance and lower rank in society.