Everyday Use by Alice Walker essay

In order to discuss the era in which the short story was written, it is very important to refer to the character of Mama. Mama is represented as an uneducated woman, but she possesses a practical character. As the literary critic David White (2007) describes Mama’s character, she “takes pride in the practical aspects of her nature and that she has not spent a great deal of time contemplating abstract concepts such as heritage… [but her lack of education] does not prevent her from having an inherent understanding of heritage” (p.3). Mama is a person who loves her ancestors and respects them. This fact is proved by her description and treatment of the quilts. She says, “They had been pieced together by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them… in both of them were Grandpa Jarrell’s paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece… that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War” (Walker 103). These quilts are very important for Mama as they represent a direct connection between herself and her ancestors. The author of the short story describes Mama’s understanding of heritage, “I took it for a moment in my hands… you could see where thumbs and gingers had sunk into the wood. It was beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived” (Walker 102). According to David White (2007) when Mama “takes the dasher handle in her hands, she is symbolically touching the hands of all those who used it before her” (p.4). It is clear that her practical character and her relation to heritage distinguish her from her daughters’ perception of heritage. Such people as Mama play an important role in the development of the African American culture and traditions.

In addition, there are many other important characteristics of Alice Walker’s short story Everyday Use. The story is full of symbolism which helps the readers to evaluate the era in which the literary work was written. The above mentioned description of the main characters gives an opportunity to conclude that Alice Walker represents unique and very contrasting personalities which help to understand the true meaning of the word “heritage” (Walker & Christian 52).  Dee as one of the main characters of the story helps to understand and see the identity struggles and misguidance of the time period, while Maggie and Mama help to fully understand the importance of preserving the African American culture and traditions. As the literary critics state, Alice Walker wrote her short story with the major goal ”“ to make African Americans acknowledge and respect their heritage (Bloom 28). However, it is possible to conclude that Alice Walker’s story made all people in our society acknowledge and respect the other nations’ heritage.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the short story Everyday Use written by Alice Walker can be regarded as an educative literary work, which tells a lot about the era in which the short story was written, about different personalities and their relation to heritage, and which teaches the readers to love and respect their traditions, culture and heritage. Alice Walker’s short story Everyday Use is focused on the representation of bonds between people of different generations. The quilts play an important role in the short story as they are used as a strong connection between different generations. The arrival of Dee and her lack of understanding of her national and family history proves that these bonds are vulnerable. Besides, the relationships between Maggie and Dee prove the fact that they have very little in common. As Dee cannot understand the legacy and power of her name, which passed along through several generations of her family, she fails to understand the significant role of the quilts, which consist of the swatches of clothes owned by her ancestors.

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