ESSAY ON EVERYDAY USE
Alice Walker is one of the minority writers recognized and appreciated by the majority of critics. As a black women writer, her background provides the sources of her work, especially work describing colored people’s life. And her style could be peered through the analysis of one of her masterpiece—Everyday Use.
The modern classic "Everyday Use" tells the story of a mother and her two daughters’ conflicting ideas about their identities and ancestry. The mother narrates the story of the day one daughter, Dee, visits from college and clashes with the other daughter, Maggie, over the possession of some heirloom quilts. The themes center on Mama’s awakening to one daughter’s superficiality and to the other’s deep-seated understanding of heritage. Walker uses several literary devices to examine the themes and to give a voice to the poor and the uneducated as with many other stories by Walker.
A variety of means were selected to portray different characteristics of the people appeared in the story. For Dee, her arrogant, selfish, and ungrateful daughter, more actions were focused on and detailed movements were gasped to suggest what a superficial and ego girl she was. When Dee determined to take the quilts, “she held the quilts securely in her arms, stroking them;” “Dee moved back just enough so that I couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her.” All these showed that she did not really understand the heritage meaning of the dasher and quilts. As to another daughter, Maggie, similarities and metaphors were used to suggest this poor girl, i.e. “A dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car”. By contrast with her sister, she was innocent, timid and kind-hearted. Maggie knew how to quilt and she enjoyed living with her family and deeply acknowledged their culture and heritage.
The quilts in the story are symbolized as the African American cultural heritages. By presenting the two daughters’ means of treating the quilts in the story, Walker reveals different attitudes on these heritages, which to some extend were confused by black people in America. At that time, many colored people were faced with their culture in America—How to deal with it, to accept it or just to adopt a pure African cultural heritage? By comparison of Dee and Maggie, Alice Walker told us all.