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Literary Analysis: "Everyday Use" Essay examples

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n “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, we hear a story from the viewpoint of Mama, an African American woman about a visit from her daughter Dee. Mama along with her other daughter Maggie still live poor in the Deep South while Dee has moved onto a more successful life. Mama and Maggie embrace their roots and heritage whereas Dee wants to get as far away as possible. During her return, Dee draws her attention to a quilt. It is this quilt and the title of the piece that centers on the concept of what it means to integrate one’s culture into their everyday life.
To begin with a quilt is defined as a “coverlet made of scrapes and fragments stitched together to forming a pattern” (Webster). The quilt in “Everyday Use” was made by Grandma Dee, Big Dee, and Mama from scraps of dresses and shirts and part of Grandpa’s Civil War uniform. It is filled with memories and was hand stitched by the family. Mama suggests that Dee take other ones, but Dee rejects the offer because they were “stitched by machine”(Walker, p.114) and the old ones were done by hand. Mama says that she had promised them to Maggie. Dee then replies that Maggie would “be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (Walker,p.114). Mama says she hope Maggie will use them every day. This begins what is means to use and misuse heritage.
Mama is hoping that Maggie will use the quilt as a practical everyday item. She sees the quilts for their functional use that they were made to use in everyday life. Meanwhile, Dee finds this absurd. She thinks they are too valuable and priceless to be using as everyday necessities. Instead she will hang them. These two ideas of how to use the quilts are in complete contrast of one another. Mama finds them practical, Dee finds them fashiona...


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...racticality in items. Depending on how one feels about the item, it would seem it dictates its use; like Dee wants to embrace her heritage, but not her roots whereas Mama and Maggie can embrace their heritage regardless of the items. Therefore they use them practically but appreciate where they came from.



Works Cited

Hoel, Helga. "Personal Names and Heritage: Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use.'." American Studies in Scandinavia 31.1 (1999): 34-42. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 97. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 24 July 2010.

"quilt." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 24 July 2010

Schakel, Peter J., and Jack Ridl. "Everyday Use." Approaching Literature: Writing Reading Thinking. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008. 109-15. Print.


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