The Novel "Everyday Use" By Alice Walker: A Literary Analysis

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In the story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker introduces two sisters with opposite personalities and unique views on heritage. The purpose of this essay is to conduct a literary analysis of the story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. 

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Maggie and Dee -  different personalities, contrast the acceptance and rebuff of the quilts. Mama, the narrator has more trust in her younger daughter, Maggie, rather than in her more successful, eldest daughter, Dee. Mama is a well-rounded woman because of her strength and the tasks she gets done. “In real life, I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands”. She can take on anything as she pleases just as a man can too. Mama does not have much affection for her character unless it has something to do with family and the quilts but she is a direct, straightforward person. “I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes steaming from the hog”. She has also had the same mindset since she was raised because she is uneducated, and raised itself-aware of a rural area. She is used to hard labor, not giving up, getting through the tough times, and acknowledging family, which makes her powerful. Maggie is the youngest, which makes her a little more self-aware. She is retired, so she lives with Mama, and has kind of still stayed in the same life as she was raised. Maggie's character is described as someone who lacks confidence but is kind-hearted with people. Dee on the other hand is educated, sometimes stubborn but determined when she decides to make her decisions. “Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she’s made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts”. As the older daughter, she decided to make some decisions for herself and love on her own. She always thinks to be right and outsmartsin  Maggie.

Education is a big theme in “Everyday Use” because Mama and Maggie both lacked education in their lives, unlike Dee. Dee went out in the world and got herself an education so that she could end up having the things and change of lifestyle she desired. She values education a lot because it benefits from her past and her family. Dee’s knowledge is more credited and Mama sometimes misses the opportunity she could have had but admired it, however, it makes Maggie more jealous. Alice Walker expresses that Dee’s educational life could be hurting the help of other people and her family. Walker uses the similarity of fire as their house burns and relates that to Dee’s mechanism shared throughout the family.

African Heritage has a big role in this story because Mama and Maggie value it as an everyday thing. They appreciate their family roots and incorporate the quilts, traditions, art, and the house they live in. This is why they would put in the “Everyday Use” of the items their ancestors would cherish and use. Dee on the other hand has somewhat put her family’s heritage in the past. She rejects parts of it such as sewing, which is a big part of their culture, and sees them more as decoration. Dee ends up taking pictures of her house so she can see what that life was like with the butter churn, quilts, and decorations inside their home but does not value the items as if they are there. I do not necessarily think African heritage differs from being an American because every type of American has their admired heritage which should not be judged. The way Africans idolize things and people, objects, food, and family may be unique, however, I believe that does not make you un-American.

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