Analysis of Patches: Quilt and Community in Alice Walker's Everyday Use
In a critique titled “Patches: Quilt and Community in Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use’” (Short Story Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction Writers, 1990), the authors reveal that tradition and the explanation of holiness were key elements throughout the story. The writers began the analysis by discussing the significance of a quilt; a quilt is a complete piece of artwork that is essentially made up of fragments. These patchwork quilts, when effectively put together, exposed a way of life. The Africans traditional way of life was one of sacredness and usefulness. By using scraps from old clothes they were able to create a masterpiece that could be passed down from one generation to the next. The title “Everyday Use” implies that quilts, while they may be priceless heirlooms, are also made to function.
The Johnson’s are a typical African family that has settled in America. The mother, and narrator of the story, is a working woman who often imagines herself as someone else, someone who her children would not be ashamed to be seen with. While awaiting the arrival of Dee, her eldest daughter and a “goddess” (415) in the eyes of her family, she dreams of being on a TV program where a host reunites long lost family members. As she greets her daughter who has been away at college, she is not only one hundred pounds thinner but is beautiful in the eyes of her children. However, she lives in reality where her overweight, masculine, and unattractive body serves a purpose. Regardless of her outward appearance, she provides food, shelter, and religion for her daughters.
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...