Walker & Everyday Use

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Many times an author draws from his or her personal life and incorporates his or her past into the short story. Alice Walker is one of the most respected, well-known African-American authors of her time. Alice Walker experienced a lifetime of hardship that would influence her later works, helping her to become such an astonishing author. In her short story "Everyday Use", Walker tells the story of her heritage and enables the reader to encounter the values in her life.

On February 9, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia, Willie Lee and Minnie Grant gave birth to their eighth child; a precious little girl whom they named Alice. As an extremely intelligent child Alice was always exploring the world around her. "She said that one of her favorite pastimes in the world was 'people watching.'" (http://members.tripod.com/chrisdanielle/alicebio_1.html). When Walker was eight years old, she and her brother were playing a game of cowboys and Indians outside when Alice's brother accidentally hit her in the eye with a BB pellet, blinding her in her right eye. Although that didn't stop Alice, she went on achieving excellent grades and going on to college. She first attended Spelman College (an African-American institution) on a handicap scholarship she'd been granted. Unhappy with the way Spelman's treated her for her involvement of activism and civil rights, she accepted a scholarship from Saint Lawrence College in New York. Alice was faced with great difficulties such as abortion and suicide, but she pulled through and graduated in 1965 kicking off the begging of an unforgettable and ongoing career. (http://members.tripod.com/chrisdanielle/alicebio_1.html)

By distinguishing the family-oriented round characters in the short story "Everyday Use", Alice Walker illustrates the common mistake of placing the association of heritage solely in material objects. Walker presents Mama and Maggie, the younger daughter, as an example that heritage in both knowledge and form passes from one generation to another through a learning and experience connection. However, by a broken connection, Dee, the older daughter, represents a misconception of heritage as materialistic. During Dee's visit to Mama and Maggie, the contrast of the characters becomes the conflict, because Dee...

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... family values, Mama takes the quilts from Dee who "held the quilts securely in her arms, stroking them clutching them closely to her bosom" (Walker, 91) like sacred representation, and then gives them to their rightful owner: Maggie.

After Mama gives Maggie the quilts, Dee says, "You just don't understand," "Your heritage" (Walker, 91). Dee believes heritage and family values to be materialistic things. Dee understands that the quilts were hand-made, but she lacks the knowledge and history behind these quilts. On the other hand Mama and Maggie understand the meaning of the quilts and know that they were made for everyday use. Ironically, Dee criticizes Mama for not understanding heritage when, in fact, Dee fails to really understand her own heritage. Dee mistakenly places heritage wholly in what she owns, not what she knows.


Living By Grace. Danielle, Chris. 1999. Tripod. 03-10-2005. http://members.tripod.com/chrisdanielle/index.html
Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use". Literature An Introduction to Reading and Writing Sixth Edition. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001, 360-365.
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