Sep 28, 2020 in Book Review

Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is an absolute masterpiece of Walker’s short stories that explicate about a family of three living in an utterly distinctive way of life. Her story unveils a mother and her two daughters, who uphold completely conflicting ideas, as far as culture and heritage are concerned. The mother and her daughter, Maggie, espouse and appreciate their culture and heritage, as opposed to Dee, who understands the culture and the heritage, but surprisingly fails to acknowledge their existence, despite her mother’s regular advice.

Walker’s story endeavors to explain that no matter, where we go or who we associate with, we should never neglect our culture and heritage, nor should we accept any form of brainwash with regard to accepting our differences in culture. Per se, Walker unravels the truth that no culture is better than the other, and no one should despise another’s culture nor feel inferior of his or her own culture because culture and heritage define who one is and what he or she expects from the society. Certainly, culture dictates the way one should act, behave, and live, as well as the way he or she should associate with others and acknowledge the distinction in culture.

In-depth Review of Everyday Use Short Story

Walker commences elucidating that, indeed, one’s identity is delineated by his or her ancestry, which is a broad sense that includes culture and heritage. Culture and heritage are important phenomena in one’s everyday life, as opined by Walker. The story unveils the mother as a simple countrywoman, who understands her background, culture, and heritage, and does everything that depicts her advocacy of the culture to her daughters. The mother values the culture and heritage, because these two give her peace and happiness in her everyday life, and make her accept the simple life she leads (Cowart 7).

Unlike Dee, Maggie like her mother is a simple introverted girl, who learns by heart everything about her culture and heritage, because she believes it gives her internal happiness from her heart. On the other hand, Dee is depicted as a materialistic girl, who believes that her happiness is derived from possessions, and does nothing less than ignore her culture and heritage, saying it is of no significance and adds no value to her life. She goes ahead to explain that culture and heritage should only be remembered in their simple artistic appeal rather than cling on them to define one’s life. She does not construe to the fact that even the materials she admires to posses symbolize anything to her or to her family.

Despite the fact that the three women are one family and that they live together, their views about life seem to be divided by what they believe and uphold. The mother is always appreciative of who she is and accepts all that she was left with after the untimely demise of her beloved husband. She knows her boundaries and limits and endeavors to live according to what she can afford because she sees no problem living by her limits (Burkhardt 10).

Maggie is no different from her mother because her perspective about life is more or less the same. She accepts her identity as a non-educated girl, who knows that her culture and heritage can give her the happiness she wants, rather than crave for what neither she nor her mother can afford. Maggie has high esteem for her memories about her culture and heritage and learns everything from her mother. She even reiterates that she can always remember her grandmother even without the quills that she made. She also remembers that it is actually Aunt Dee’s husband, who carved the dasher, which depicts her love and cherishes for their traditions.

Unlike Maggie and her mother, Dee, as elucidated above, is a materialistic girl, who wants everything for herself, as well as wanting everything to be done the way she wants. She always wanted good things for herself and was ready to do anything just to have them. In the story, Walker unveils the way Dee adamantly wanted to have the old quills for herself, even though her mother intended to give them to Maggie because she knew Maggie and her love for their old folks’ tradition. Dee not only wanted the quills, but also the dasher and the churn top, the very things her mother had pledged to give to Maggie.

Her love for material possession blinds her from understanding and putting the culture and traditions into practice, despite the fact that the quills, the dasher, and the churn top had significant value to their life. Unlike Maggie and the mother, Dee does not acknowledge that heritage has everything to do with their family’s tradition, and does not associate with anything to do with her family’s heritage as far as culture and tradition are concerned (Walker 69).

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She even goes ahead to brand herself a new name, when she goes to the city to do her education. She believes she will have attained some degree of liberty from her family and their “demanding” culture by changing her name from people who, she says, oppressed her. Even though she goes to see her family, she promises never to take her friends to their home, because she feels ashamed of their family heritage. This is a clear indication of Dee’s dislike of her family’s culture and heritage, by not wanting any of her friends to know about their way of life.

Notably, Dee’s educational advancement seems to have increased her despise of the reality of her background. Indeed, she seems not to realize that her life is meaningless without her real culture. She seems completely alienated from reality and she craves material possession sweeps her mind off the veracity of her own existence. She embraces the outside culture contrary to her sister, Maggie, who concedes that her family heritage is everything to her, and endeavors to put the family’s tradition into daily practice. To Maggie and her mother, culture and heritage make life meaningful, and will always remain in their hearts day in day out.

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Conversely, Dee’s perception about tradition is that it is a thing of the past and that her mother and sister should forget about the past and live like it is a “new day”. She definitely does not see a future for her family and believes that her family’s progress has been deterred by their obvious song of retrogressive culture and heritage (Lewis 12). Consequently, her sophistication and aspirations make her feel superior and she tries to live like she actually does not have any strings attached to her family’s ancestry. Maggie and her mother’s reflective knowledge of their tradition confine them to their simple life, and they derive their contentment from what they know is right to them and their ancestors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” story attempts to encourage individuals to love and uphold their culture and heritage from the inside as much as they can from the outside. Walker tells us that despite the inevitable dynamics in human life, one should never scorn or demean their culture, because of the great impact that tradition has in our daily life. Walker unveils that knowing the culture is not enough and that acknowledging and putting the same into our daily practice is what matters.

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