Alice Walker's Everyday Use

1207 Words5 Pages
In every family there seems to be a child that is bestowed with all of the positive aspects of her parents. Unfortunately, for every perfect child there is, it seems that there is one child that is less talented and less beautiful. In the short story, "Everyday Use", these two character descriptions fit perfectly in relation to the characters of Dee and Maggie. Dee is the gifted and beautiful child, whereas Maggie seems to have been left behind by the gene pool and luck. In her short story, "Everyday Use", Alice Walker utilizes language, the tragedy of the fire burning down Maggie's family's house, and her portrayal of Dee to pain an extremely sympathetic portrait of Maggie.

Walker's use of language when describing Maggie creates a picture of a physically scarred and unintelligent woman. Maggie's physical scarring is pointed out to the reader early in the story to lay a foundation for sympathy. Walker accomplishes this when she states that Maggie has, "burn scars down her arms and legs" (383). The matter of fact choice of vocabulary by Walker creates an image of a deformed person that would not be aesthetically pleasing by any stretch of the word. Walker fortifies her effort to create a sympathetic Maggie with her vocabulary when Mama states, "Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie's arms sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes" (384). The words "arms sticking" and "hair smoking" generates a grisly image in the reader's mind of a grotesquely injured little girl that is quite worthy of sympathy (Walker 384). It is not only the physical scars that were left by the fire that create sympathy about Maggie's physical appearance. Dee is described...

... middle of paper ...

...e evidence suggesting abuse provides the reader with feelings of sympathy for Maggie.

Walker clearly portrays Maggie as the more sympathetic of the two daughters. This is created by giving the character of Dee all of the good lucks and intelligence, but also pairing those positive qualities with the negative quality of arrogance. It is also done by creating the Maggie character without any of the natural gifts bestowed to Dee, but also saddling her with tragedy and allowing the impacts of the tragedy to be evident to the reader. Maggie is depicted throughout the story as a truly tragic character that has been shorted at every possible stop in life. Dee is portrayed as someone who has been given everything, yet has turned into a undesirable human being. It is this unfairness that is truly the root of her status as an extremely sympathetic character.
Open Document