Separating the Flames of Reality Essay

Separating the Flames of Reality Essay

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In Alice Walker's short story, "Everyday Use," Wangero could have thought: "Ashes to Ashes. Dust to Dust." Once the house burned, it, and its history is dead--lost in the flames-- the joy in a new start, a new life, a new name must have made Wangero want to "dance around the ashes (66)" of the house. Dee did in fact change her name to "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo." When her mother asked her why she didn't use her name anymore Wangero answered: "She's dead, I couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me." (68) `She' died in the same fire that burned down the house I suppose. So, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Dee was reborn as Wangero. However, the night of the fire a flame of conflict was born for her mother. The conflict of Maggie, the younger sister, vs. Wangero flamed into a choice between a wish and reality. By choosing Maggie to own the quilts, the mother symbolically chose to reject Wangero's Wish for the reality of Maggie's Everyday.

Flames from the night of the fire burned over Dee's sister, Maggie. The fire burned her hair and pieces of Maggie's dress. After the fire, Maggie was "homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs."(65) Not only is Maggie homely but also she is "not bright."(66) Maggie looks at her sister "with a mixture of envy and awe."(65) Wangero has "nicer hair and a fuller figure."(66) Apparently even her "feet were always neat-looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style."(67) But Maggie looks very much like her mother. Consequently the mother wished for Wangero's looks over Maggie's homeliness.

But the difference did not stop there. Besides wishing for Wangero's appearance, the mother wished for her intellect. Wan...


... middle of paper ...


...70) Fortunately, the mother's choice "hit" her like "the spirit of God."(70) Maggie was given the quilts. Consequently Maggie's mother chose Maggie's Everyday over Wangero's Fantasy.

In conclusion, despite the hard choice of Maggie's Reality vs. Wangero's Fantasy, the mother chose reality. Beauty and intelligence are not easy fantasies to give up, not when they even haunt one's dreams. The flames that burned over Maggie and separated her from Wangero brought the choice of fantasy and reality to their mother. Beauty, intelligence, art--all these things Wangero had and her mother wanted. But when the choice came in the form of who to give the quilts to, the mother chose Maggie. The mother chose herself. The mother chose reality. Therefore, in Alice Walker's short story, "Everyday Use," the mother chose to reject Wangero's Fantasy for Maggie's Reality.

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