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The Character Of Mama In Alice Walker’s Everyday Use

938 words - 4 pages

“I am a large, big boned woman with rough, man-working hands” Mama describes of herself in the short story Everyday Use by Alice Walker. Mama, who additionally takes the role of narrator, is a lady who comes from a wealth of heritage and tough roots. She is never vain, never boastful and most certainly never selfish. She speaks only of her two daughters who she cares deeply for. She analyzes the way she has raised them and how much she has cared too much or too little for them, yet most of all how much they value their family. Mama never speaks of herself, other than one paragraph where she describes what she does. “My fat keeps me hot in zero weather. I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing” (Walker, 60). She does not need to tell readers who she is, for her descriptions of what she does and how her family interacts, denotes all the reader needs to know. Although Mama narrates this story rather bleakly, she gives readers a sense of love and sense of her inner strength to continue heritage through “Everyday Use”.
Regretfully, though readers can see how Mama has had a difficult time in being a single mother and raising two daughters, Dee, the oldest daughter, refuses to acknowledge this. For she instead hold the misconception that heritage is simply material or rather artificial and does not lie in ones heart. However, from Mama’s narrations, readers are aware that this cultural tradition does lie within ones heart, especially those of Mama’s and Maggie’s, and that it is the pure foundation over any external definition.
One situation in particular that Mama brings up is the time when she offers to Dee to bring some of the ancestral quilts with her to college. She claims, “I had offered Dee a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told me they were old-fashioned and out of style” (Walker, 66.) Dee’s bad-mannered approach to the situation is shown clearly and it should be questioned perhaps where Mama may have went wrong in raising Dee. For her daughter to have no faith, no value in family heirlooms, is questionable!
To answer this question, one must first look at how Mama reacts to previous events with Dee. In one situation in describing Dee’s high acquisitive approach to life, Mama recalls, “Often I fought off the temptation to shake her. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (Walker, 61). Notice that Mama does not confront her daughter and instead she “fought off the temptation.” In another scene, where their house burns down and Dee has no remorse towards the situation, Mama proclaims, “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes?...

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