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Leaving the Past Behind in Everyday Use Essay

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Leaving the Past Behind in Everyday Use

 
    Everyday Use by Alice Walker is a short story about how people get caught up in the superficial value of material things, and the jealousy this desire causes.  In this short story Dee, the eldest daughter, was always ashamed by the way she lived during her childhood years.  As she was educated more and more, her feelings of hatred for poverty and ignorance grew intensely.  After she finished college her abhorrent feelings grew immensely, and she tried to take advantage of those less educated than her.

 

      Dee always hated the way she lived when she was being raised by her mother.  Dee was obviously overjoyed when the house that she hated so much, was finally destroyed.  "A look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red-hot brick chimney.  Why don't you do a dance around the ashes?  I'd wanted to ask her.  She hated the house that much."  The destruction of this symbol of poverty gave her a spark of hope that she and her family would move up in the world, that eventually snowballed into a much larger hatred.  She was always ashamed of her past and did everything in her power to improve her status.  Even when she was sixteen years old, her mother recalls the urge Dee had to improve everything she could.  Her mother said, "Dee wanted nice things.  A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she'd made form an old suit somebody gave me."  Even though she knew her family couldn't afford "nice things" she had a burning desire for them.  This desire made her take the time and effort to alter a suit her mother was given, into a nicer ...


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...and her chin.  She was making a last ditch effort to try to make a distinction between her financial class and her mother's.  The fact that she hid her entire face behind a pair of dark shades, is symbolic of her trying to put a barrier between herself and her poor past.

 

Works Cited

Cowart, David.  "Heritage and Deracination in Walker's 'Everyday Use.'" Studies in Short Fiction 33 (1996): 171-84.

Hoel, Helga.  "Personal Names and Heritage:  Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'." 2000. Trondheim Cathedral School, Trondheim, Norway.  30 Jan. 2000.

Showalter, Elaine.  "Piecing and Writing."  The Poetics of Gender.  Nancy K. Miller, Ed. New York: Columbia UP, 1986.  222-47.

Walker, Alice.  "Everyday Use."  Literature:  Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. 4th ed. Robert DiYanni, Ed.  New York:  McGraw Hill, 1998.  408-413.

 


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