Everyday Use

Pride and Heritage in “Everyday Use”

On the surface, “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is on one level about a mother’s dynamic relationship with her two daughters, who have conflicting attitudes towards both family and cultural roots. It is also a depiction of the misguided and superficial pride resulting from the civil rights movement. In her story, Walker compares those African Americans who accepted life and lived their culture by carrying on family traditions with those who struggled for identity, trying to “museumize” the past and put their culture on display. Walker’s characters Dee and Maggie represent these conflicting perspectives in the African American identity struggle. Her choice of detailed events, southern setting, characters, and symbols in the Johnson family home work together to reveal the story’s deeper meaning and lead us to infer that Walker believes African American heritage should be integrated into everyday life rather than preserved and displayed superficially.

In Walker’s story, Dee, the eldest daughter, returns home to her dirt-poor beginnings to visit her mother and sister after being away at school. Dee and her husband arrive at the run-down house with a somewhat dramatic entrance as her family recognizes her new appearance and style....

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