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Depictions And Contrasts Of Empowerment And Heritage In Alice Walker's Every Day Use

2365 words - 9 pages

Through the beginning of the 20th century, there was a large cultural uprising and revolution in the way of racial identity and cultural reclamation, of heritage and rejection of oppression. The shift in gears was prominent, and soon all manner of people began to turn themselves over to the resolution; inspired poets, artists, songwriters and even those in the rabble between began to change their names to re-identify with their culture, their heritage (in their own eyes and minds.) It was refereed to as a second renaissance of Black Culture, and in this renaissance there was a reinvention of literature. In the journal written by B. Lakshemi, they describe the events of this revolution; “Two literary genres emerged during this second Black 'Renaissance.' 'Womanist' literature [is one], a term used by the novelist Alice Walker to distinguish this trend from the white dominated feminist movement[...] 'Womanist' literature refers to literature that focuses on womanhood.” (Lakshmi 210) Alice Walker, referenced in this quote, is one of the more prominent black artistic figure of her time. The youngest child of two sharecroppers, she was, herself, a pronounced activist, having in her time as an author published several pieces which display the different ways in which empowerment and pride manifest in women. Crippled in her youth by a wayward BB gun shot to her eye, she experienced life as both a quiet and humble girl- describing herself as “The girl who did not raise her head” (“Beauty” 3)- and as a proud and accomplished individual, having graduated as valedictorian and gone on to receive several honors in writing. Themes of empowerment run strong in Alice Walker's stories. Her life and her fiction comes together to display a strong collection of different women, all who come from different backgrounds and with different experiences, each of which provides an example of empowerment through her situation and all of which can be sympathized with regarding the nature and background of their struggle. In “Everyday Use” there is a prominent contrast between the most visible of “heritage” and the most subtle, both of which may be validated and sympathized with when contrasted to history at the time of their publication and Alice Walkers other “Womanist” characters.

The short story with the most potent, dramatic parallels between the different notions of heritage and empowerment is in Alice Walkers “Everyday Use.” The main character and narrator of the story is simply referred to as Mama. She is, as described by Walker, a “Large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.” (Walker 2773) She works through her life with a 2nd grade education, and had never learned how to read, instead having to rely on her daughter Maggie to stumble along and read the words to her. Still, she gets along- she works hard with her hands, described as gutting pigs and wearing flannel and denim as well as any man. Through these statements we can learn that Mama is a simple,...

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