“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker

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In its simplest form, a child is a product of a man and a woman but Alice Walker one of the foremost authors during the twentieth century, adds depth to her black American women by focusing on the role that race and gender played in their development. Family reunions can be times of great anticipation, excitement and happiness but for Dee, a young, beautiful, African American and our leading character, it was a reunion with underlying, unspoken tensions. Dee was Dee but Dee had changed; a new husband, nice clothes, and a college degree to boat. Maybe that college degree certificate could be farmed and hung on the wall replacing that old photo of George Washington Carver, out with the old and in with the new. Alice Walker is showing how one’s education influences thoughts about traditions. There are two different ways of thinking about the traditions and the author realizes and put them as two characters in the story. The evidence of culture and traditions become very clear with the introduction of the family quilt. For example, Dee says that “the quilts are priceless” and decides to keep them as a material substances. Maggie, her sister, also sees the quilt as priceless but priceless as it relates to her culture. Walker focuses on African American heritage and its value. She emphasizes that cultures are the foundation of families and pointing out to the reader that traditions are rooted in everyday use.

“Everyday Use” takes place in a time period when groups of peaceful and militant ideologies existed. The Black Panthers and Black Muslims were groups created to resist what they saw as a conquered culture. Walker may have created Hakim-a-barber with this new, younger, more revolutionary generation in mind. In the st...

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...anged for the benefit of a trend but to be taught from one generation to next. Walker is using the quilts, and the value of those quilts, to make the point that art can only have meaning if it remains connected to the culture it came from. “Her story itself is a good example: Walker sold her story to the highest bidder; she meant it to be questioned, to be explored, to be debated-in short- to be put to “Everyday Use” (SparkNotes).

Works Cited

Gruesser, John. “Walker’s ‘Everyday Use’.” Explicator 61.3 (Spring 2003): 183-185. Rpt. In Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol 97. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 30 July 2011.

SparkNotes Editors, “SparkNote on Everyday Use.” SpartkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 11 July 2011.

Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use”. Literature. 2 Ed. Ed. Robert DiYanni. Boston. 476-482.

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