Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Short Story: "Everyday Use." Alice Walker.

One-minute review: Two African-American daughters. Dee and Maggie. Dee, the pampered one the pretty one, the favored one, and Maggie, the younger, still bearing the scars from the time the house burned down. Dee returns to visit her old home with a male friend. Dee has changed her name to Wangero, an African name. She does not want a name, “Dee,” like her oppressors (whites).

Dee (Wangero) wants to take back with her as much of her heritage as she can—especially two quilts made by her grandmother.

Her mother and Maggie still live their lives as they have always done—unsophisticated, perhaps barely literate, but full of pride in their heritage—and are overwhelmed by Dee’s (Wangero’s) sophistication. Their mother had promised the quilts to Maggie on her marriage. Dee says that Maggie will only use the quilts as part of her everyday existence, allowing them eventually to fall apart. Dee (Wangero) wants to display them in her home as artifacts. The mother retains the quilts for Maggie, who had agreed to give them up to her superior sister.

Dee (Wangero) goes off in a huff. She does not realize that unconsciously she has adopted the culture of the whites. Her mother and Maggie proudly live, not display as relics from the past, their heritage.

Comment: My summary leaves out many of the subtle signs of the contrasting cultures revealed in the story. The writer examines indirectly many of the differences between Dee (Wangero) and the lives of the mother and younger sister, who are contented with their lot. The story deserves a full reading. RayS.

Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing
. Eds. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989.

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