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Alice Walker's Everyday Use

In Alice WalkerÆs Everyday Use, the narrator is the African American mother of two girls, Dee and Maggie. Maggie lives at home with her mother in impoverished circumstances. Dee returns home for a visit, having been educated in Augusta. The conflict in the story revolves around a quilt made by Dee and MaggieÆs mother from pieces put together by the narratorÆs mother and Big Dee. The mother intends to give the quilt to Maggie and eventually does, but Dee demands she be given the quilt. The real conflict is between Dee and MaggieÆs way of life. Maggie and her mother see the quilt as a continuation and symbol of their heritage. Dee, who has rejected her heritage and background, sees the quilt only as a ôprizedö possession.

The narrator in the story helps us understand the difference between her two daughters. Maggie is dark-skinned but ôDee is lighterö than Maggie with ônicer hair and a fuller figureö (Walker, 1973, p. 1174). As the mother tells us, Maggie ôknows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her by,ö (Walker, 1973, p. 1175). Ever since she was a young girl, Dee ôwanted nice thingsö (Walker, 1973, 1175). Dee is embarrassed by her poverty and African American heritage. Even when she was little, her mother tells us she hated their home and poverty. When their house burns down and Maggie clings to her mother, the mother thinks of DeeÆs reaction, ôWhy donÆt you do a dance around the ashes? IÆd wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that muchö (Walker, 1973, p. 1174).

Dee is ashamed of her family, socioeconomic background, and heritage. She changes her hair, manner of dress, speaking style, and appearance in order to distance herself from her mother and Maggie. She considers them backward, uneducated, and something to be avoided when she is with her new friends living her contrasting lifestyle. DeeÆs character has been this way since she was a young teen. He...

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Alice Walker's Everyday Use. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:16, May 24, 2020, from