Symbolic Analysis of Alice Walker's Everyday Use
Alice Walker?s ?Everyday Uses (For Your Grandmother)? is a story about a woman?s struggle with the past and her inability and unwillingness to accept the future. The three main characters in the story are Dee, her younger sister Maggie, and their mother. The story is narrated by the mother in an almost reminiscent manner, and it is on her that the focus of the story centers. Her eldest daughter, Dee, is the first in her family to embrace modernization and to attempt to improve her way of life. Dee?s view of the world and her feelings about developing her own sovereign identity are foreign to Maggie and her mother. The mother has lived her whole life in a manner that Dee simply does not wish to live hers. The mother shows some recognition of this as the story opens and she describes her own life and childhood and compares those of her two girls. The daughters, then, represent to their mother opposing forces in regards to socioeconomic and educational standards of living. Throughout her recollection of the story, the girls? mother learns to accept and even appreciate the fact that she and Maggie are resigned to living the only way they have ever known, while Dee has chosen to abandon that legacy and sees it only as a way of life to be honored, not lived.
The author?s decision to narrate the story from a first-person point of view allows the reader to gain insight into the mother?s struggle that wouldn?t have been available otherwise. Throughout the beginning of the story, the mother describes both her views of herself and of her daughters. She sees Dee as being superior to both she and Maggie. Dee always gets what she wants, whether it be through her family or on her own. The mother recounts how Dee wanted ?a yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation?, and when Dee shows up at the house, she is wearing a dress with ?yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun?. Maggie, on the other hand, is much like her mother in many ways. She never completed her formal education, she is unattractive and unintelligent, and she will most likely end up living her life in the same socioeconomic condition that the mother has led hers. These are crucial elements to the story as the daughter?s each play a very significant role in the mother?s struggle to cope with contemporary thought and the idea that her eldest daughter wants to move beyond the boundaries set before her by her family. The reader is made aware of these boundaries when the mother describes herself and her past. She never had an education. She is not a bright woman, nor is she very good-looking. In a figurative sense, she is much like Maggie in that ?she stumbles along good-naturedly but can?t see well?.
For the mother, Maggie symbolizes tradition. She is the type of daughter that the mother knows will never amount to much more than the mother herself did. Dee, on the other hand, is a...