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The Main Themes in “Everyday Use” by Walker

The themes of family relations, sister rivalry, traditions, heritage, and the struggle for civil rights intertwine in Alice Walker’s short story. The narrator is an African-American woman and the mother of two daughters. While this woman shows incredible strength in caring for her family, racial oppression has imprinted her not allowing to defend own opinion (Bell, 2019). Her eldest daughter Dee used this quality of her mother to get everything she wants. Despite her habit of giving in to her daughter, in the new dispute over quilts, the mother was able to fight back.

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Visiting her mother and sister, Dee, who changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, unexpectedly for her family begins to admire the things made by their ancestors – the churn and quilts. Following the trend of the 1960s – 1970s, the young woman is trying to return to African culture and acknowledge the legacy. In particular, she believes that her sister Maggie, who is promised quilts, cannot appreciate them and will soon spoil (Walker, 1973). Wangero wants to take them and use them as decoration for her house. While respect for one’s roots and especially self-acceptance as a descendant of Africans is fundamental, the way this character manifests them causes doubts of her sincerity and looks repulsive.

The mother is not used to arguing and defending her position, but in reaction to Dee’s claims does incredible thing for her and shows firmness. She sees the youngest daughter surrender under the onslaught of her sister and accepts injustice: “This was the way she knew God to work” (Walker, 1973, para. 75). Probably, she sees daughter as herself, how pressure affects the characters of both her and her daughter. As a result, the mother receives an insight into the need to protect Maggie. Thus, seeing in a new light the repetition of her fate, humility before injustice, provokes the unusual actions of the narrator.

References

Bell, J. (2019). Like mother, like daughter: Parental expectations in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use.” McNair Scholars Research Journal, 1, 6-15. Web.

Walker, A. (1973). Everyday use. Harper’s Magazine. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Main Themes in “Everyday Use” by Walker." December 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/everyday-use-by-walker/.

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