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Alice Walker’s Short Story “Everyday Us”


Everyday Use is one of Alice Walker’s most well-known works. The tale was first published in 1973 as part of the author’s collection of short stories, In Love and Trouble. The plot revolves around “Mama,” an African American woman who lives with one of her kids, Maggie. She describes her joy as she waits for her successful daughter Dee to arrive. Nevertheless, upon her arrival, Mama quickly finds that the daughter she envisaged in her imagination is not the same as the one returning home, as the new Dee wavers between rejecting her actual background and accepting it. The author provided essential concepts vital to the story’s growth throughout the tale. It is reflected in the concept of heritage and the concept of differences.

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Relation Between Walker and the Characters

Alice Walker was born as the youngest child in the rural South, in the state of Georgia, and was taught from an early age that being African American may be difficult. One of the story’s primary characters, Maggie, has a clear connection to Walker’s childhood. It is worth noting that even though her precise age is unknown, she looks to be a young woman. Maggie was injured in a home fire many years ago, and she walked with her “chin on chest, eyes on the ground, feet in the shuffle” (Walker 316) and was very self-conscious about her appearance. Moreover, it is a fact that Alice’s elder brother shot her in the eye as they were playing. Thus, she remained blind in one eye and had the impression that she was unattractive to look at, leading her to isolate herself from other children her age. Thus, this connection with one of the characters in the work can tell the reader who the author sympathizes with more.


Walker uses the voice of a fluid, observant first-person narrator to express her point. The reader can comprehend both Dee’s and Maggie’s characteristics and perspectives because of the mother’s point of view. The mother’s narrating viewpoint gives her impartiality, allowing her to see everything. One of the story’s major topics is heritage. Dee, the main character, most exemplifies this notion (Tuten 126). It is worth noting that Dee felt oppressed as a child growing up as an African American woman. She finally learned to adapt and create a new heritage as a result of her oppression. She establishes a new name and dresses in a variety of outfits and accessories to form a new identification (Walker 319). Her resentment and desperation to reject her origins were the exact factors that prevented her from making her new legacy insignificant (Farrell 180). What she saw was a fragment of oppression, and by rejecting her genuine roots, her new identity grows hollower and more pretension-filled.

In Walker’s contrast between Dee’s and her mother’s personalities, the sisters’ differing perspectives on culture are shown. Dee represents a materialistic and contemporary style of life in which culture and tradition are primarily appreciated for their fashionableness. On the other hand, the mother lives a happy, simple, and practical existence in which the family history is valued for both its practicality and its importance (Tuten 126). Maggie, the younger daughter, stands in opposition to these two extremes. Her personality and habits were molded correlatively from an early age by her mother, who raised her in a conventional and basic manner (Walker 316-317). Her role in the novel helps to highlight the stark differences between her and the sister’s cultural perspectives. Walker’s physical descriptions of the characters provide clues regarding the role allocations.

Change of Name

Dee’s knowledge is further demonstrated by her decision to alter her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. She appears to have chosen her new name to show unity with her African origins and to resist the tyranny represented by black slaves adopting American names (Walker 318). This emphasizes her stance toward culture and tradition once again since she wishes to erase her past by adopting a new identity. She ignores the fact that she was called after her aunt Dice and that the name Dee is a sign of family unity since her mother possibly could have taken it back through the branches beyond the Civil War (Walker 319). Walker is particularly concerned with the notion of changing one’s name for the sake of a fad (Farrell 183). She was a severe critic of African Americans’ habit of changing their names to African names with no personal history or unrelated to people they knew.


There is a sense that Dee has forgotten or is unwilling to go back to where she came from. Instead, she wants items from the house that she can use to show her friends where she comes from, although she is not particularly proud of her family’s past. Dee likes to show off every piece in her house, but the truth is that she is ashamed of her origins. After receiving her education, she now examines people’s lives as if they were individuals in a textbook. Dee’s understanding of what it means to be an African American is devoid of heart and soul.

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, Web.

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Tuten, Nancy. “Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use.’” The Explicator, vol. 51, no. 2, 2010, pp. 125–28.

Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” In Love and Trouble. New York: Harcourt, 1973. 47-59. Print.

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