The Character of Mama in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use

analytical Essay
936 words
936 words

“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 whe...

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...rn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece . . . that was from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War" (Walker, 65). These quilts, which have become an heirloom, not only represent the family, but are an integral part of the family. A concept in which Dee, could just not possibly understand. Mama then grasps the quilts out of Dee’s clutch and places them on Maggie’s lap, for Maggie knows that the quilts are personal and emotional rather than by any means financial (p.66). These quilts are for “Everyday Use.”

In this last scene, Mama proves to herself that you do not need an education, or generation knowledge to be able to posses strength. For Mama had inner strength all along, she just needed her true rich and beautiful beliefs of her heritage to shine through, and they did.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how mama is a large, big boned woman with rough, man-working hands in the short story everyday use by alice walker. she is never vain, boastful and most certainly never selfish.
  • Analyzes how dee, the oldest daughter, refuses to acknowledge that heritage is material or artificial and does not lie in one's heart.
  • Opines that mama's bad-mannered approach to the situation shows clearly and it should be questioned perhaps where mama may have gone wrong in raising dee.
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