Henderson, Day and Waller outline four approaches for the critical analysis of literature. The four approaches are: textoriented; author-oriented; reader-oriented; worldoriented. Text-oriented criticism implies that only the words and their contexts are meaningful. The life and time of the author is deemed irrelevant as is the reader's response to the work.
Reader-oriented criticism can be taken to signify that the reader's response to the work, their reading, impression and perception of it, basically recreates the work each time it is read. This form of criticism allows for the unique experiences of different types of individuals to color the work, as when Chinua Achebe states:
It was not a simple choice or an easy return journey for Okigbo to make, for he never underrated his indebtedness to the rest of the world. He brought into his poetry all the heirlooms of his multiple heritage (Henderson, Day & Waller 801).
The worldoriented form of criticism takes a sort of universal/philosophical approach in that it echoes Kant's categorical imperative by asking if the moral themes and underlying ideologies are true, or are the whole truth.
The authororiented approach of criticism suggests that the life and time of the author, once understood, help to clarify the work at hand and imbue it with deeper significance.
In Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," we can clearly see that the authororiented approach to literary criticism best applies; however, there is also worldoriented criticism possible. "Everyday Use" could never be fully understood or validly criticized without a knowledge of the author's life and time. Alice Walker lived through what can only be described as a bleak period in America's civil rights history. She definitely existed in a time and place when blacks were considered "inferior" in contrast to their white oppressors. She lived through a time when education and work opportunities for blacks were pr...