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Everyday Use, By Alice Walker Essay

1415 words - 6 pages

In the short story, Everyday Use, the author, Alice Walker, develops and transforms the attitude of the protagonist, Mama, adjusting the way she views her two daughters, Maggie and Dee. As one of the most significant characters in the story, Mama sets the perspective and point of view for the readers because of her important role as the narrator. The plot line of the story revolves around the return of Mama’s eldest daughter, Dee, as she is coming home from college in the city. In the beginning of the story, Walker gives the readers the strong impression that Mama harbors a special partiality for her eldest daughter, and a feeling of shame for her youngest, Maggie. But as the story works its way to the peak, and eventually comes to its closing, Walker drastically changes the attitude of Mama toward both of her daughters, finally treating each girl as they truly deserve.
Walker’s character Mama gives the readers insight to the thoughts and feelings of a traditional African-American mother of the late 1960's to early 1970's. She has seen her two daughters turn into two very different women as they grew up from adolescence. Mama’s position in the story is that of a strong parental figure, who has taken on the role of both father and mother for her small family, and her character is a perfect example of Walker’s “womanist” views (“Womanist” par 1). As Mama describes herself, she is clearly embarrassed of her outward appearance but takes pride in her own masculine strength. She also regretfully states that she was never educated past the second grade, saying, “After second grade the school was closed down. Don't ask me why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now” (Walker par 13). However, this lack of education did not stop Mama from striving to provide a better life for oldest daughter Dee, as she even teamed up with their church to raise the money to send Dee to school. The extent Mama went to grant Dee with the life she wanted could only come from a parent who took great pride in their child.
Walker constructed the character, Dee, to personify what a modern African American woman of the new generation could only hope to become: successful, glamorous, and living in a life full of opportunities. Mama even has a fantasy about being reunited with her eldest daughter on the Johnny Ross Show, as they embrace and weep in each other’s arms because Dee is a girl who has finally “made it” (Walker par 3). Through-out the beginning of the story, Mama sings her daughters praises, speaking of her education and her beauty. She compares Dee against her younger sister Maggie, “Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure” (Walker par 10), but her praises remain only on superficial good qualities that Dee possesses. Although Mama speaks highly of her daughter, the tone that Walker writes Mama’s attitude gives the reader an understanding that Mama was slightly resentful toward her daughter, and had hard feelings for Dee’s...

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