In her short story "Everyday Use", author Alice Walker introduces us to a Mother awaiting the visit of her daughter, Dee, who has left her rural upbringing to go away to college. Although we are not told an exact location, the descriptions provided by Miss Walker lead us to believe that the story is set in the very poorest section of the south. Momma narrates this story, and describes to us in her own simple way the dynamics of the family and the conflicts that arise with Dee's homecoming. Momma tells us she is uneducated; "I never had an education. After second grade, the school was closed." She further describes her rough, rural lifestyle. "I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing...One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall." Although seemingly simple and backward, Momma clearly describes the differences between her two daughters, the conflict that comes about with Dee's homecoming and the choices she is forced to make between her two girls.
Maggie and Dee are two sisters that are as different as night and day. When Momma talks of Maggie, it is with a sad and gentle reflection of this daughter's lot in life. "Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks." Momma tells us, however that Dee, "She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature. " Where Dee is pretty and bright, Maggie is scarred and slow. Momma seems more content being in Maggie's presence, having more in common with her than with her daughter Dee. She and Maggie tend the house together, ...
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...py and shout." The daughter who has the deeper family values, who understands the true nature of heritage will be getting the quilts. Although Dee tells momma "You just don't understand ... your heritage." it is she who does not understand the significance of what she holds in her hand.
By making Momma the narrator, Alice Walker has given us a simple but clear viewpoint. Listening to Momma's voice, we can better understand the background that makes two daughters so opposite. Momma helps us comprehend the confusion and conflict that Dee's arrival back home brings, and how everyone reacts. Through momma's narration, we can follow her thought process as she wrestles with the decision of who should get the quilts. Without Momma, the reader would not feel as intricately involved in the story or identify with the emotions Alice Walker incorporates in "Everyday Use."
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