A Literary Analysis of Everyday Use
Alice Walker's short story, "Everyday Use," shows the significance of genuinely understanding our own family traditions and culture through our present lives. The story presents two sides in conflict through the characters of Maggie and Dee. Mama, the narrator of the story, and Maggie, the youngest daughter, appreciates heritage as part of themselves and where they originated from. Dee, the oldest daughter, discarded her heritage from the start and never reformed a connection with it. It is ironic that two sisters from the same family are total opposites.
Mama describes herself as "a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands." Similarly, Maggie is not a pretty girl. The last house they lived in burn down. Maggie he has burn marks around her body to prove it and is ashamed to show them off. Maggie and Mama are both uneducated. However Maggie's specialty is quilting, which was taught to her by Grandma Dee. The description of Maggie and Mama gives the readers a little sense of poverty. But at the same time, the lessons passed on by their ancestors are what give meaning to their lives. Even though they do not have money, they can feed and cloth themselves. They try to make use of everything in their possession in order to do so. Maggie and Mama are not ashamed of where they came from because their everyday lifestyle is constantly exercising family traditions. Dee, on the other hand, never appreciated her culture. The house that burned down was a symbol is their heritage. Dee was not sad to see it burn. Also Dee does not accept her heritage by disliking the way her mother lives. Dee wants Mama to be "a hundred pounds lighter" and more beautiful. The knowledge and lessons passed on by their past generations are important to Maggie and Mama, but not Dee. She takes the first crack she gets to leave home. She basically sprints off to college in order to distance herself from her family and leave behind the life they are leading. It is ironic that the money used to send her to Augusta to school was raised by her mother's church, an old family tradition.
At first glance, when Dee returns home for the first time since college, she seems to have gone through a huge transformation. Dee looks highly feminine in contrast to Mama and Maggie. She begins to take pictures of the house, Mama, Maggie, and cows nearby. Also she starts taking interest in the house, the benches, and everyday items in the house. Ironically, Dee seems to be showing interest in her heritage; the same heritage that she distanced herself from in the beginning. However, Dee has changed her name to "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo", a possible African name. She could not "bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me." Mama told her that the name "Dee" branches back to many past generations....