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Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Essay by   •  February 22, 2011  •  Essay  •  862 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,684 Views

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"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker does an excellent job showing how one's family can determine how one acts and feels about themselves. Walker uses first person point of view to describe how one person can change so many lives. In the story Mama has two daughters, Maggie and Dee. Maggie still lives at home with her mother while Dee has moved out and gone to college. From the very first sentence, "I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon"(92) the reader can tell that Mama is proud of how she lives and how she brought up her daughters.

Mama is very nervous about Dee coming to visit and has done things to try and make her house look good before Dee gets there. She states "I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon."(92) Mama wants everything to be perfect when she arrives, it is as if Mama needs her approval of the house and everything she has done before she can go on with her life. Mama is the judge of the story and we can only really see what she is like through her thoughts and words about everyone else. She describes Maggie as "chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground."(94)

Maggie is the character that the reader feels sympathetic for. Once her sister arrives, Mama states that she will "stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe."(92) Maggie looks up to Dee, it's as if Dee is a celebrity. Maggie is the complete opposite of Dee though; everything that Maggie has gotten in life she has had to work for. She learned how to quilt from her grandmother and she helped her mother cook and clean the old house. Maggie also does not speak very often; you can see this when Dee's companion tries to have a conversation with her but all that Maggie says is "Uhnnnh".

Once Dee arrives the reader gets a good look at what she is truly like. We discover that she spends way too much time on the appearance of things instead of the meaning of them. She has changed her name to Wangero because she said that she "couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."(96) Dee does not understand the true meaning of heritage, she thinks that heritage is something that can and should be put on display only if it is in fashion at the time. Dee speaks about the bench that her father had made and the butter dish that her grandmother had as if the were just objects that could be bought at any old store. "I never knew how lovely these benches are. You can feel the rump prints, she said, running her hands underneath her and along the bench.

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