- Term Papers and Free Essays

Everyday Use

Essay by   •  March 13, 2011  •  874 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,081 Views

Essay Preview: Everyday Use

Report this essay
Page 1 of 4

Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Through contrasting family members and views in "Everyday Use", Alice Walker illustrates the importance of understanding our present life in relation to the traditions of our own people and culture. Using careful detailed descriptions and attitudes; Walker demonstrates which factors contribute to the values of one's heritage and culture. She illustrates that these are represented not by the possession of objects or simple appearances, but by one's lifestyle and attitude.

In "Everyday Use" Walker personifies the different sides of culture and heritage in the characters of Dee and the mother (the narrator). Dee can be seen to symbolize a materialistic, complex, and modern way of life where culture and heritage are to be valued only for their "trendy-ness" and artistic appeal. Mother on the other hand, represents a simple content way of life where culture and heritage are valued for both its usefulness as well as its personal significance. The story clearly endorses Mama's simple, unsophisticated view of heritage, and shows disregard for Dee's materialistic connection to her heritage. This is demonstrated from the outset of the short story, you learn very quickly that the mother has inherited many customs and traditions from her ancestors.

She describes herself as "a large big-boned woman with rough man-working hands" She also describes here various abilities including, " I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man..." While those abilities are not extraordinary, Walker exemplifies what Mother has learned from her ancestors, and that being durable and tough is a part of her heritage. Mother is very proud of her abilities and accomplishments. Mrs. Johnson, the mother, describes Dee as light skinned with nice hair and a full figure. She recounts Dee's childhood and her appreciation of nice things. She was not the least upset when the family home burned to the ground while she was just a girl, "Why don't you do a dance around the ashes? I'd wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much." Dee's character in the story is a direct relation to any number of people in society that do not know or are confused about their heritage. She is struggling to create an identity for herself, and is confused as to what it encompasses. She grasps at African tradition and culture, yet fails to acknowledge her own African American culture. Dee is misconstruing her heritage as material goods, as opposed to her ancestor's habits and way of life. This may be due in part to her leaving her hometown and becoming an educated, sophisticated young woman. Dee's direct heritage is that of African Americans.

When Dee informs her mother and Maggie she has changed her name she states, " I couldn't stand it anymore, being named after the people that oppress me." Dee's mother is quick to point out that Dee is in fact named after her aunt, who was named after her grandmother. While Dee may not be an "African" name it is based on ancestors, tradition, and the heritage of the Johnson family. Dee discards this name in favor of



Download as:   txt (5.1 Kb)   pdf (75.2 Kb)   docx (10.3 Kb)  
Continue for 3 more pages »
Only available on