Everyday Use By Alice Walker


“Everyday Use” is a short story by Alice Walker and it was initially published in 1973. This short story was a part of the collection of short stories by Alice Walker titled ‘In Love and Trouble’. This short story is very widely studied due to its subject matter and the issues it highlights. The short story also has a film version which came to foreground in 2003.

The short story is a first person narrative and the person telling the story is called “Mama” who has two daughters and is living in the Deep South. Mama lives with one of her daughters called Maggie who is the younger one. Maggie follows the traditions and cultures of the traditional rural South, while Dee, the older daughter is more successful and does not like to be associated with her roots.

Mama also draws a comparison between Mrs. Johnson and Maggie in a comic way which highlights the differences between the cultures. The setup of the story develops when Dee visits her mother and sister after a long time. When she comes home, she and her mother have an argument based on some family heirlooms. Dee does not like her cultural roots while her mother values their identity and culture therefore values those heirlooms. Dee’s acceptance or rejection of her native culture has been highlighted using numerous objects such as quilts and butter churn. At some points she seems to understand the value of her culture but at other points, she completely rejects her identity. Dee also changes her name because her family name entirely represents her native identity and it can be traced to her native roots.

Alice Walker adds a number of comparative elements in the story which help the reader identify the conflicts of cultures prevailing in the world. A number of people are ashamed of their native identities because they presume that their native roots are not accepted in the world.

However, they fail to understand that having an identity is highly important and it is essential to recognize once native roots. This is the reason why this short story by Alice Walker holds so much importance, specifically for the academics who use this story to explain the importance of identity and culture. The comparison of Maggie and Dee is one that can be associated with on so many different levels.

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