Everyday Use by Alice WalkerAlice Walkers early story, Everyday Use, has remained a cornerstone of her work. Her use of quilting as a metaphor for the creative legacy that African Americans inherited from their maternal ancestors changed the way we define art, womens culture, and African American lives. By putting African American womens voices at the center of the narrative for the first time, Everyday Use anticipated the focus of an entire generation of black women writers.
This casebook includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of Walkers life, an authoritative text of Everyday Use and of In Search of Our Mothers Gardens, an interview with Walker, six critical essays, and a bibliography. The contributors are Charlotte Pierce-Baker, Houston A. Baker, Jr., Thadious M. Davis, Margot Anne Kelley, John OBrien, Elaine Showalter, and Mary Helen Washington.
An Analysis of 'Everyday Use' by Alice Walker
It was first published in as part of Walker's short story collection In Love and Trouble. The short story is told in first person by "Mama", an African-American woman living in the Deep South with one of her two daughters. The story follows the differences between Mrs. Johnson and her shy younger daughter Maggie, who both still adhere to traditional black culture in the rural South, and her educated, successful daughter Dee, or "Wangero" as she prefers to be called, who takes a different route to reclaiming her cultural identity. She reflects on the differences between Dee and Maggie, her youngest daughter, and knows that Maggie will be anxious around Dee and self-conscious.
On a deeper level, Alice Walker is exploring the concept of heritage as it applies to African-Americans. This was a time when African-Americans were struggling to define their personal identities in cultural terms. She uses the principal characters of Mama, Dee Wangero , and Maggie to clarify this theme. Mama narrates the story. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. This description, along with her reference to a 2nd grade education , leads the reader to conclude that this woman takes pride in the practical aspects of her nature and that she has not spent a great deal of time contemplating abstract concepts such as heritage.
You know, because it's got love… and trouble, trouble, trouble. Walker published this collection of stories in , exactly a decade before she won the Pulitzer Prize for a little book you might've heard of called The Color Purple. Like that super famous novel, "Everyday Use" explores African-American women's struggles with racial identity and racism during a particularly tumultuous period of history yeah, you guessed it, that's where some of the trouble comes from. But the story is also about a much more basic conflict: good old-fashioned sibling rivalry. In "Everyday Use," Dee returns to her mother's home to lay claim to a couple of handmade quilts that she thinks would make really cool decorations for her new place. Dee's the kid in the family who's used to getting everything she wants so this shouldn't be any problem, except it turns out that her mother's been saving the quilts for her younger sister Maggie.
Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" examines the divide between the rural, southern black in the 60's and 70's and the new progressive movement among the younger generation. When Dee goes to college she can barely wait to shake the dust off her feet from her poor, Georgia community. But when she comes back, irrevocably changed, Mama and Maggie, her sister, don't know how to understand or communicate with her. One of the interesting techniques that Alice Walker uses to tell her story is by making it a first person narrative told through Mama, an uneducated, rural Georgia, black woman, living in the past and unable to understand the present. She admits to the reader from an early point that she never understood Dee and the she and her older daughter clashed from the time that she was a young girl.