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Misfortunes Of Dreams In Everyday Use” By Alice Walker

1281 words - 6 pages

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This famous excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech seems to echo the very sentiment of the narrator, whom we find out later is “Mama” and Mrs. Johnson, in the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. She alludes to her eldest daughter Dee and says “sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV program of this sort. Out of a dark and soft-seated limousine I am ushered into a bright room filled with many people. There I meet a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson who shakes my hand and tells me what a fine girl I have” (60). In fact, Dee has, through money raised by the church and her mother, gone on to fulfill her mother’s dreams of obtaining an education and attaining a certain status in life. It appears Mama’s embedded her dreams in the future; albeit in a better life for her daughter Dee. Her dreams call for a change from life as is; to the life of her dreams. Unfortunately, the ascending cloak of animosity and resentment within Mama, accompanied by the obligatory change as a result of Mama’s efforts, has brought misfortune and a reversal of the dynamics between Mama and her daughter Dee.
From the beginning of the plot Mama allows us a front row seat to the workings of her conscious thoughts by reflecting on the way she views herself as well as her two daughters, Maggie and Dee. From these descriptions, we get a glimpse of the schizophrenic nature that resides within Mama. She describes Maggie as this half shell of a person “standing hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe” (59). She walks like “a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car…” (61). Maggie lacks any drive or ambition and feels inferior to Dee. In short Mama describes Dee merely by saying “Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nice hair and a fuller figure” (61): “She would always look anyone in the eye: Hesitation was no part of her nature” (60). But she does refer to Dee’s proclivity to be materialistic: “Dee wants nice thing …. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (61). Mama’s dramatic description of herself leaves nothing to the imagination: “In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather” (60). This description does not bold well for Mama capturing “her role” in her dream.
The disparity of the outward imageries by Mama is a small manifestation of her cloaked animosity and resentment as compared to her hyperbolic soliloquies. Even in her dreams she says Dee wants her to be...

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