“Everyday Use” a Book by Alice Walker

Words: 1128
Topic: Literature
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Everyday use is an allegorical story that intertwines the African heritage and the modern world practices. Written by Alice Walker the story focuses on the lives of the African Americans who struggle to keep the African legacy amid a world engrossed with diverse cultures. Therefore, the narrator struggles to reveal the contemptuous attitude of Dee who is purely engrossed in a new culture. Critically, analysis of Walker’s story reveals her artistic prowess in blending the literary techniques to reveal the radical transformation in black people. Therefore, in addition to giving a vivid precise on the story everyday use, the next discussion also reviews the story by focusing on the writer’s strengths and weaknesses.

Précis

Through despising the contemptuous attitude of Dee, Walker silently condemns Africans who paint their culture as inferior. The narrator (mother) seems eager to see her eldest daughter (Dee) who lives in town. Although she prepares everything in readiness of the visitor, she is aware of the conflicting lifestyle between her daughters. While Dee despises the African heritage and lifestyle, Maggie appreciates it. Dee is arrogant, selfish and wild, a character that motivates her to paint her mother and sister as traditional. During her visit, she announces that she has changed her name from Dee to Wangero.

Intuitively her action reveals that she does not appreciate her African heritage, which deeply lies in the naming culture. Mother tries to elaborate the importance of the name Dee as a family name, which bonds them but her eldest daughter shuns her. Although mother is unhappy with her decision, she learns to pronounce the name. Ironically, although Dee rejects her cultural name, she fights for the possession of some of the items, which are landmarks in her culture. For instance, she wants to posses her mother’s quilts for decoration purposes. Therefore, she does not appreciate her African culture.

Intuitively, through focusing on the quilt, Walker highlights the theme of African heritage. Unfortunately, while some of the Africans fight to carry on the legacy of their culture others like Dee see it as extinct. Eventually, Maggie decides to let Dee posses the quilts but mother disapproves her decision. Thus, although hatred ensues between mother and Dee, the decision to give Maggie the quilts shows that erosion of the African cultural heritage is a personal decision. Conclusively, the emergence of other cultures has led to division between family members.

Critique

By focusing on the African American women, Walker silently raises her concern over the minority groups in America. As a famous author with expertise in different genres, Walker explicitly addresses the theme of cultural heritage that has raised conflicts in many families. Dee is not in good terms with both her mother and sister (Maggie). Their difference in lifestyle and perception of their culture is the origin of the conflicts. As an educated woman in an African family, Dee disapproves her culture as backward. However, Walker paints Dee as an arrogant character to motivate the educated Africans to appreciate their cultural heritage. Therefore, as an African who has lived in an oppressive world Walker implicitly calls for the African women to not only appreciate their culture but also to embrace education. The author prolifically blends her experiences with the radical transformation in America to empower women.

While writing her story Walker applies different literary techniques, which is a proof of her writing prowess. Metaphorically, Walker uses the quilts not only to represent the African heritage but also to show the bond that exists in the African women of different generations. For instance, mother says “Some of the pieces, like those lavender ones, come from old clothes [Grandma Dee’s] mother handed down to her ” (Walker 10). Thus, the possession of the quilt shows that an individual appreciates the women who came before her. Secondly, the butter churn is another device that metaphorically connects the African women. Intuitively, when mother touches it she remembers the other women who have had a profound effect in her life. Walker uses the quilt and the butter churn to instill the sense of love and appreciation. Therefore, walker carefully articulates literary devices like metaphors with her observation skills to appreciate motherhood.

Furthermore, Walker logically calls for the empowerment of women despite of their educational backgrounds. Although Dee has the education, she finds faults in her character. According to mother, “[She] pressed us to her with the serious way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand” (Walker 5). Analytically, Walker condemns the black women who are arrogant, selfish and full of pride mainly because of their educational status. Although the black women like Dee are beautiful, they lack respect especially to their culture. Beside, women empowerment, being mandatory, black pride should be discouraged. Therefore, Walker uses the contemporary issues in her society to condemn the vices in her people. Walker blends her literary skills and observatory nature to challenge pride in the black people.

Nevertheless, Walker’s story sidelines the importance of the male gender in the society. Beside, using women as her main characters, she also finds fault in the man she includes in her story. For example, mother makes fun of Dee’s boyfriend while Maggie is not ready to shake hands with him (8). She gives a vivid description of him as a “short stocky man, hair is all over his head a foot long and hanging chin like a kinky mule tail,” (Walker 8) to show her low perception towards men. Walker’s story disapproves men because of their oppressive nature during her contemporary times. The second weakness of her story is the abrupt ending, which leaves the reader in suspense. For example when mother decides to give the quilt to Maggie, how does Dee reacts in addition to stomping away? The reader has to speculate on the reaction of Dee.

Conclusively, in comparison, with other literary works Walker’s story explicitly outlines the issues affecting the world in a humorous manner. As an inspiration book to the African community the film adaptation of the story promotes Walker’s theme. Walker uses her personal experiences as not only as an African but also as a woman to highlight the theme of African heritage. She articulates her life, experiences, gender and contemporary issues to develop her theme. Apart from encouraging women to take up education, she condemns pride among the few elites in her society. Unfortunately, the ability to shun the importance of men in the society becomes the major weakness in her story. Intuitively equality is a vital element that the society should embrace and not shun as it with her story. Therefore, all feminist writers like Walker should also appreciate the men in the society.

Work cited

Walker, Alice. Everyday use. Boston: Bedford publishers, 1973. Print