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Acceptance And Denial In Alice Walker's Everyday Use

777 words - 3 pages


Mama, the protagonist in Alice Walker's short story, Everyday Use is a woman with a solid foundation and tough roots. The qualities that society would find admirable within Mama are the same qualities that Dee, Mama's oldest daughter, would spurn, thinking them only the qualities of a down home, uneducated, country bumpkin. Dee, the story's main antagonist, is proof that children are not necessarily products of their environment.

From the beginning of the story we see that Mama, who describes herself as "a large, big-boned woman with rough, man working hands" (68) has no illusions about the type of woman she is; however, she still has enough depth to dream about being reunited with her daughter Dee on television in a fantasy complete with a limousine, orchids, and Johnny Carson. Mama, who is capable of killing a bull calf with a sledge hammer (69), knows that she is uneducated, dark, and heavy. Mama also knows that the fantasy has more to do with making Dee happy than fulfilling any of her own wishes. Mama's main character strength is her patience as it relates to her children and specifically Dee. From the time that Dee steps out of the car and informs Mama and her younger sister Maggie that they should no longer call her Dee, Mama displays this patience. Mama must feel disappointment in the fact that Wangero, as she wishes to be called, considers Dee dead (71). To Mama, who named Dee after her sister, Wangero's statement that she couldn't bear to be named after the people that oppressed her (71) must have been like saying it was Wangero's family that had actually been the oppressors. Mama's patience and willingness to bend to the wishes of her daughter showed great inner strength and understanding.

Mama continues to display her patience when the family sits down to eat dinner. Wangero's companion, Hakim-a-barber, stated that he didn't eat collards and pork was unclean (72). For a guest to make such a statement about a meal prepared for him in the presence of his hostess shows such a breach of etiquette that even Wangero should have reprimanded him. Wangero, however, chooses to ignore the insult and instead shows through her healthy appetite that her newfound convictions do not extend as far as the dinner...

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