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Culture In Alice Walker’s Short Story "Everyday Use"

774 words - 4 pages

Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a thought provoking short story that teaches the importance of preserving heritage. The story surrounds an argument between a southern traditional mother (Mrs. Johnson) and her eldest daughter (Dee/Wangero), over Dee’s lack of respect, knowledge and selfish behavior regarding her family’s heritage. Mrs. Johnson has two daughters (Maggie and Dee) who have two completely different views of the world and different lifestyles. In the story two quilts are used to symbolize the importance of the family’s culture. A family feud begins when the three women argue over who should receive the quilts.

Although Maggie and Dee have experienced the same upbringing, and were raised the same household, they are two complete foils of each other. Dee is the bold, witty, shrewd, fashion forward and confident college graduate; Maggie is the timid, reserved, and self-conscience sister who is unsuccessful. Dee, the eldest daughter, is described as being the more attractive and admirable sister by saying "She is lighter than Maggie with nicer hair and a full figure." Maggie is described as being less attractive in comparison to Dee, and walks with her head chin to chest. Maggie is thin and uses her clothing to hide that she is badly burned from a fire that occurred in the home years ago. Mother, However, takes pride in being the rugged and somewhat manly type of woman. In the story she brags about she can “kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man” and how her fat keeps her hot in zero degree weather. Walker’s choice of words to describe the 3 characters early on in the story, gives an idea of how the three women will interact when they all meet up.

Walker used two main objects/places in “Everyday Use” to add a hidden meaning. The first object/place of meaning is the front yard. Mrs. Johnson and Maggie cherish their front yard and fix it up nicely for Dee’s arrival. Mrs. Johnson says, “It is not just a yard. It is like an extended living room.” To Maggie and Mrs. Johnson the front yard is a place of freedom and safety, where they can “sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside...

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