Everyday Use

Identity Confusion in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"

Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" is a tightly woven tale that brings together many disparate elements of the story to reinforce the thesis put forward by W.E.B. DuBois that black Americans are trapped in a double consciousness between their African heritage and their American citizenship. Walker's story is about the bifurcation between a mother and a daughter, between America and Africa, and between the two cultures battling for one identity. Beyond the obvious identity confusion expressed in the character of Dee/Wangero, Walker imbues her story with symbolism that points to the general confusion of identity inherent in the African experience.

DuBois equates the experience of black America with striving to create a singular consciousness out of an identity made up of dual perspectives. DuBois writes that "One ever feels his twoness...two warring ideals in one dark body" (564). Walker's story is about this war over identity and she extends it even to the symbolism of the items that Dee wants. Dee urgently desires the butter churn and asks, "Didn't Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have?" The very fact that the churn was made from a tree, that its identity was forged into something new based upon its...

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