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Essay on Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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The familiar saying, “Old habits die hard,” is true in every sense of the phrase. In life, it is most times difficult for someone to cease an old habit. In the story, “Everyday Use,” we are introduced to the Johnson family: Mama, Maggie and Dee. Mama and Maggie live together while Dee, Maggie’s older sibling, moved away to study; she has always been the most established of the three. Dee eventually comes back to visit her family, but she looks much different from the time she left. She even has a new name to go along with her appearance, but her personality remains the same: pompous, selfish, and misguided.
Dee thinks highly of herself because she is academically educated while her mother and sister are not. She flaunts her fortune at her own mother who, along with the church, saves enough money to send Dee to school. She does not even appreciate the sacrifices her mother makes for her on a daily basis. Dee, through a letter, commits to visit Mama and Maggie no matter the rickety accommodations they decide to dwell in (Walker 72). One day when Dee visits her family, Mama and Maggie are shocked to see a stranger exit the vehicle; she is wearing a dress long down to her feet, extravagant gold earrings, and bracelets that makes noise when her arm moves. Her hair is done in an afro with two pigtails wrapped behind her ears (Walker 72). The person they know to be Dee changes her appearance significantly; she even speaks and interacts differently.
Dee is fascinated by their bucolic reality, taking photographs as though they are being studied, and in doing so successfully removes herself from her family. Upon greeting one another, Mama initially addresses her as ‘Dee,’ which prompts the response, “‘Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!...


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... too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it.” Instead of honoring and embracing her roots, she objectifies them and distances herself as a spectator of their lifestyle versus becoming a participant and learning her true heritage.
Old habits are hard to break. Just like Dee in “Everyday Use,” Dee moved away and became a different person in her outward appearance, but she was still the same internally; focused only on herself and her well-being. Many people try to change their hair, clothes, and how they live in an attempt to prove how much they have changed, but their personalities most times remain the same.



Works Cited

Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 4th ed. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Boston: Pearson, 2006. 69-76. Print.


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