An Analysis of Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"
Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. This novel, in addition to her short story collections and other novels, continue to touch the emotions of a vast audience. This ability, according to critics, has "solidified her reputation as one of the major figures in contemporary literature" (Gwynn 462). Born to sharecroppers in Eatonton, Georgia, in 1944, Alice Walker's life was not always easy. Her parents strived to provide a home at a time when political and social unrest were at their highest. According to critic Barbara Christian, "[T]hat oppression fosters a sustaining spirit that appears in Walker's writing"
(Kimmich). Walker attended Spelman University in Atlanta, where she first became active in civil rights. She went on to graduate from Sarah Lawrence College. Her own experiences, including being blinded in one eye as a child and having an abortion as a young woman, may have contributed to her ability to convey the feelings and thoughts of her characters to her audience. Many of Alice Walker's characters portray strong independent black women, but she also stresses the importance of the ties between family and other women (Kimmich). In the short story, "Everyday Use," this theme is evident by the independent nature of all three women and also by the strong tie that the mother feels for her both of her daughters.
"Everyday Use" is something that most people use to signify the common ordinary things we use on a daily basis. The author, by using this title, brings important significance to these items. The author may be trying to convey to the reader that our daily lives and the things we use every day are more important in learning who we are or what we are than the job we hold, the money we make or the status of our social lives. She conveys to her readers that the
quilts, even though they are believed to be an item of significant racial heritage to Dee, are much more than that. To her and to Maggie, it is about all the little fabrics that went into
making the quilts. Each one of those little pieces of material signify something in someone's life. Using the quilts everyday, makes the work and the memories a part of daily existence. There is also the knowledge that if they wear out, new quilts can be made with new fabrics and new memories.
"Everyday Use" is about the relationship between a mother and her two daughters. In the beginning, the mother is very proud of her oldest daughter Dee's accomplishments, but also realizes that Dee has never been proud of where she came from. Dee comes home with a new interest in her heritage, and she wants to take back with her some things from home, including two quilts. These quilts are not wanted for sentimental reasons but as artwork to impress other people. The quilts have been promised to the younger sister, Maggie. Maggie is very intimidated by Dee. The story is about the conflict between the two sisters concerning...