Everyday Use is a short story written by the American author Alice Walker. The story was first published in 1973 and belonged to the author’s collection of short stories called In Love and Trouble.
Everyday Use is quite a thought-provoking and relevant story that demonstrates the modern problem of globalization. Moreover, it touches upon the eternal problem of generation gap. Alice Walker being of African-American origin, decided to present a very gripping and specific problem of cultural heritage. She tries to find the roots of her people.
The plot of Everyday Use is based on the narration of Mama about her daughters Dee and Maggie. The short story is told in the first person by the mother. She told about her daughter Maggie who was a shy child and loved the mother and her house. Another daughter, Dee, was completely different. She was arrogant and tried to reject from her family and its traditions. She decided to find her African roots and found a Muslim husband. She criticized Mama’s lifestyle and dreamt only about the idealized Africa. The crucial point of the text is related to the episode in which Dee asked to mother to give the family quilts to her. She wanted to have them as decoration. Mama decided to give the quilts to Maggie whereas this daughter was going to put the mentioned quilts for ‘everyday use’.
Let us analyze the main characters of the short story. The mother of the family is a strong woman who brought up her daughters and dreamt about their respect and love in response. She was proud of her solid nature and masculine strength. She could fulfil male and female duties. Maggie loved Mama and spent her time with her helping her about the house. Dee did not like the hardy nature of her mother and wanted to separate from the family. Mama was offended when Dee changed her name to an African name Wangero.
Maggie was a shy pure girl and she lived in the shade of her sister Dee. Maggie was ugly because of an accident that happened in her childhood. Behind her external ugliness, we can see internal beauty.
Dee is the opposite person and she wants to forget about her native African-American past in the USA. she strives to return to the ‘roots’ in Africa. This action demonstrates her disrespect to the national heritage and her own family when she got rid of her name ‘Dee’ that identified her origin.
Although the story is short and simple, it is very precious and touches upon paramount problems. The main symbol of Everyday Use is the quilt. What is the quilt? It is a warm bed covering that is made of numerous patches that belonged to different members of Mama’s family. There is a tradition to make several sections of the quilt by the woman of every new generation. For instance, Mama inserted the pieces of military uniform and dress of her grandparents to make the quilt. Thus, such old pieces of fabric dated back to the time of the Civil War. In brief, the item was very valuable. Of course, this value cannot be measured by money. It had completely different value. It possessed cultural importance. It was a family relic.
Why is the title of the story Everyday Use? Dee wants to possess the quilt for decoration. She understands that this item is magnificent and worth admiring. On the other hand, she does not realize the sacral value of this simple item. This quilt accumulates the work of several generations of women who combined different parts of old clothes into a beautiful quilt – a symbol of this very family. One can notice the parts of the great grandpa’s military uniform or granny’s clothes. The quilt possesses a part of every member of this family. The entire family and its memory is united in the quilt. Maggie, being a shy and hardworking girl, understood the value of the quilt and she was chosen to be the further woman to make her own contribution into this item. She was the further holder of African-American history and culture.
It is possible to find feministic motives in the story inasmuch as women are the holders of native history and traditions. Their hard work and sewing turns common pieces of clothes into a book of memories. Only due to respect to your roots and native traditions, it is possible to preserve your identity and find your place in the world.
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