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Point of View in Alice Walker's Everyday Use

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Point of View in Alice Walker's Everyday Use

Alice Walker is making a statement about the popularization of black
culture in "Everyday Use". The story involves characters from both sides of the
African American cultural spectrum, conveniently cast as sisters in
the story. Dee/Wangero represents the "new black," with her natural
hairdo and brightly colored clothing. Maggie remains traditional: the
unchanged, unaffected bystander. Nowhere in the dialogue do Walker's
characters directly mention their feelings about the Americanization
of African tradition. But Walker somehow gets the reader to believe
this popularization itself can actually turn into a form of exploitation.
By telling the story from the mother's point of view, Walker's representation
of Wangero is seeped in irony, and therefore Wangero's love of her African
heritage becomes an exploitation of it.

Because the mother is so closely related to the characters in the
story, her perception of them is biased. Walker uses this point of
view to her advantage, because while the reader is familiar with
Wangero's somewhat stereotypical "blacksploitive" personality, this
aspect of her personality remains completely foreign to her mother,
the narrator, who describes it with an innocent wonder. In the
beginning of the story the mother speaks of Wangero's actions in the
past. Even then she displayed an arrogance that isolated her mother
and younger sister, but the mother was too busy being proud of her
daughter's achievements to notice. She says, "At sixteen [Dee] had a
style of her own, and she knew what style was. She used to read to
us, without pity. [We sat] trapped and ignorant underneath her voice."
The mothe...

... middle of paper ... her mother more ashamed of her dark skin, her culture. The
mother describes her ideal skin shade as the color of an uncooked
barley pancake, a food that is perhaps tan at best. Once again, the
mother continues on about the dream without realizing the weight of
what she is saying. It is the reader's -- and Walker's --
responsibility to understand the real theme imbedded in the story.

In the same way that the reader dislikes Wangero in "Everyday Use,"
so Alice Walker seems to dislike the type of black American who uses
his or her cultural identity as a status symbol. It is not a hatred
that Walker displays in her story, but rather a playful poking-fun-of,
which wouldn't have been possible had "Everyday Use" not been told
from the perspective of the mother. This is exactly how the point of
view affected the theme of "Everyday Use".

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