Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” Critical Analysis


The given writing illuminates the subject of family traditions and cultural roots and how these two sets of values do not necessarily match. Mama is not well-educated on the culture of Africa, whereas Dee is convinced that her family does not follow true African traditions. However, it is important to note that Mama, as an African American woman, has her own set of beliefs and family traditions, which are more practical and less frivolous than Dee’s new and “correct” one.

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Family Traditions

Family traditions are the usual family norms, behaviors, customs, and attitudes that are passed down from generation to generation. Family rituals are the unwritten laws of the family, reproduced by virtue of habit and belief that this is correct. Family traditions and rituals are some of the important signs of a healthy or functional family. For example, Mama uses the quilt as a tool for everyday use, which makes it practical (Walker 5). The presence of family traditions is one of the most important mechanisms for passing the laws of intrafamily interaction to the next generations of the family. For example, the distribution of roles in all areas of family life, the rules of family communication, including methods of resolving conflicts and overcoming emerging problems. Family traditions and ceremonies are based on social, religious, and historical traditions. However, at the same time, they become unique for each family, being creatively transformed and supplemented by their own elements and variations.

Moreover, it is critical to note that Mama’s lack of knowledge about her cultural roots does not devalue her family traditions. An individual’s family values can be more practical and beneficial for its members than being true to cultural identity, thus, family values ​​are what distinguishes one family from another. This is family memory, traditions that are passed down from generation to generation, in general, something that families usually don’t even think about, taking their presence for granted. Family traditions are repeating rituals that reflect people’s inner values. Common customs connect the family, support, calm, make life predictable. There is a desire to return home, to take part in family life, there is a feeling of greater meaning from what is happening.

From the point of view of influence on the upbringing process, this value criterion performs a function in the family that is close to parental control, but in some cases, its effect goes beyond the framework of the “caregiver-educated” relationship and applies to all members of the family group. Dee’s criticism of her own family traditions distances her from the family she grew up in (Farrell 179). Thus, the rules of conduct adopted by all family representatives without exception determine the moral ideology of this particular family with minor children.

Cultural Roots

It is vital to understand that African culture is vastly diverse and highly different than African American one. It seems that Dee’s knowledge and expertise on the given subject are mostly superficial and frivolous. She positions herself as being closer to her cultural and ethnic roots, but she fails to realize that her family traditions are truer and more practical. She characterizes the change and how younger generations tend to forget the practicality of their own traditions and values in the midst of knowledge and information. African culture has mixed in countless tribes and ethnic groups. Arab and European culture also brings uniqueness to the overall culture of Africa. According to one African custom of the people of Labol, the groom must pay the bride’s father before the wedding in order to compensate for the loss of his daughter (Sesanti 489). Dee symbolizes how the presence of information without wisdom can lead to loss of identity because she is trying to adhere to the cultures, which are not related to her own upbringing.

It is also critical to note that Mama is not as well educated as her daughter. However, she is loyal to her own roots. The quilt is a major symbolic object in the story, which means a different thing to Dee and Mama. Dee considers the quilt as something sacred and important for African culture, which she acquired, whereas Mama simply regards it as a practical item. The fact that one object can symbolize and mean different things to very closely related people, such as mother and daughter, shows that one lacks relevancy of subject. Dee is also personalization of Marxist ideas of abandoning the cultural roots for the sake of ideology, whereas Mama is adherent to her own roots.


In conclusion, it is clear that Dee’s judgmental and critical approach towards her own family traditions makes her further from her actual roots. Evidently, Africa is a vast and diverse continent, where hundreds of different cultures exist. Thus, for an African American person, it might take a lifetime of research and study to find the culture of his or her roots. It is also not obvious that he or she should adhere to it because it seems that family traditions are more correct manifestations of one’s roots.

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Works Cited

Farrell, Susan. “Fight vs. Flight: A Re-evaluation of Dee in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use””. Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 35, no. 2, 1998, pp. 179-186.

Sesanti, Simphiwe. “African Philosophy in Pursuit of an African Renaissance for the True Liberation of African Women.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 47, no. 6, 2016, pp. 479-496.

Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. In Love and Trouble, 1973.

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