The older daughter Dee is a well educated and sophisticated young lady who leaves home to obtain additional education. Maggie, the very shy and traditionally skilled daughter suffers physically and emotionally from a house fire. Ms. Johnson mentions how beautiful Dee’s feet are and how “God himself had shaped them with a certain style” and later refers to Maggie’s walk as that of a lame animal.
(Walker 327) Dee is the child that receives everything that she wants and does not understand the meaning of no and there is Maggie who is used to never winning.The story ends with an argument over a family heirloom, quilts that have been passed down from generations. Dee wants the quilts but Ms. Johnson has already promised the quilts to Maggie. Walker describes Mrs. Johnson as a hard working loving mother never showing favoritism towards either of her daughters. She characterizes the narrator as an uneducated but wise mother.
Each character in the story has their own unique personality and each unique character is easily identifiable in every African-American woman.This paper will carefully analyze Alice Walker’s, Everyday Use and reveal the African-American culture and Walker’s feministic approach. As stated in an article in the Oxford University Press titled The Feminist Approach, “Feminist criticism has affinities with a number of other critical approaches, especially with cultural studies” (Oxford 234) Prior to the nineteenth century many African-American women struggled for manhood and not race or gender as documented in Hazel V.Carby’s, Reconstructing Womanhood, “From the late nineteenth century onward, Black women had articulated the links between racism and patriarchal power. But their insights found voice primarily in fiction and women’s organization, not in historical writing. Ignoring this Black feminist tradition, the revisionist historians of the 1960s collapsed the categories of race and gender: the struggle for “manhood” served as a central metaphor for the valorization of African-American culture. ” African-American culture has embraced quilting as a tradition for centuries.
Perhaps the most resonant quality of quilt making is the promise of creating unity amongst disparate elements, of establishing connections in the midst of fragmentation. ” Walker included the quilt in the story to explain African-American heritage and the creativity of African-Americans. Walker is not the first African-American author to introduce the importance of quilting as a tradition of African-Americans. In Sam Whitsitt’s article, In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, the author states that Walker is the first to articulate the value of quilting.The quilts in Walker’s story were made out the narrator’s deceased grandmother’s old dresses and scraps that the narrator’s grandmother made with her own hands. ” They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them. One was in the Lone Star pattern.
The other was Walk Around the Mountain. In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had woven fifty more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jattell’s Paisley shirts.And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War. ”(Walker 330) The narrator, Ms. Johnson did not understand Dee’s obsession with the quilts, Dee valued the quilts because they represented the African-American culture and heritage. Dee knew that Maggie would not value the quilts that her great-grandmother made by hand; Dee said that Maggie would use the quilts for everyday use.
Walker exposes the lives of everyday women by illustrating feminism in Mrs.Johnson and Maggie’s hard work and lack of education and Dee’s thirst for freedom and independence. The narrator mentions how she herself would like to be more feminine and lady-like, but instead she is forced to maintain all chores of the home and describes herself as a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. ( Walker 325) The story does not mention what has happened to Mr. Johnson or if there was ever a Mr. Johnson present. She is left alone to kill pigs, milk cows and raise her two girls.
Often women play the role of the mother and the father; in this case the narrator played both roles.Ms. Johnson desired to have more in life and often dreamt of fame as she day-dreams about the Johnny Carson show. She is content with her rural southern lifestyle and does not expect much more out of life. There are women who will always want more but are forced to accept their current situations and make the best out of them, and that is what Ms. Johnson has done. Dee’s character represents the woman of the twenty-first century.
Women had restricted opportunities and were slowly gaining more rights; Dee’s character would not allow her obstacles of being a female and an African-American oppress her.Women of the twenty-first century have also gained additional rights but are still living in a male dominated society and like Dee, they refuse to be oppressed. Maggie’s character represents all women who have been hurt either physically or mental and have decided to take a passive approach on life. An article titled “In Real Life: Recovering the Feminine Past in Everyday Use” in A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature states that “Everyday Use is about the everyday lives of black women past and present, encircled by family and culture.Its quilt is an emblem of American women’s culture itself. The quilt is passed down like mother’s wisdom from generation to generation. ” (Oxford 230) The authors in this article mention that Walker made a conscious choice to portray the female role; the story has only one male role.
Walker made such an effort exclude men from this story that the real name of the male in the story is never revealed. Ms. Johnson comments that she would not be able to look a white man in the face. As she and Maggie recognize racism but have no time to reflect on their inequality.Dee has obtained her education, moved from their rural home to the city and changed her name to reflect the African-American cultural. Dee embraces her African-American heritage and hopes that one her mother and sister would do the same. Dee does not want her family to continue to live in oppression however her motive is misunderstood.
Dee does not understand that her mother and sister have accepted their lifestyles and have embraced the African-American culture in different way that Dee is unable to understand.Walker successfully portrays the everyday African-American woman in Everyday Use. She focuses on the struggles that women are faced with and how they learn to deal with their struggles. As an African-American, quilting has been a tradition in my family for many generations. Walker acknowledged quilting as a key role in the African-American culture and heritage. Bibliography Hazel V. Carby.
Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Pre,1987) Alice Walker. “Everyday Use”.
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