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Alice Walker's literary journey is illustrious. Everyday Use was among many of her literary works that found its way in the 1973 collection of In love and trouble, stories of black women. In this short story like many other related works she has managed to work on, Alice critically looks at African American women issues through her own lens. According to her approach of using metaphor, Alice applies the metaphor of the quilt to illustrate the important role played by the Southern Black women in the development of African American culture. She illustrates the ability of the African American women to transform their destiny with no background support from anywhere. Alice as a black American woman born in 1944, the time when African Americans from the south faced the most difficult moment of their life, seems to have acquired the passion and skills to write from her own experience.
Everyday Use has received numerous recognitions in the literary world, thus attracting several reviews from scholars. An African American mother expresses the love she has for all her children in many ways, one of them being the decision to deny Dee Wangero's insistence to use old quilts, i.e. Maggie's wedding present, to decorate her own apartment (Petry 15). Walker literary uses a woman with very little education to teach her children the value of her cultural heritage, yet is also ready to cope with the inherent challenges brought by the overriding issues of culture and reality. That is, she (Walker) articulates the importance of quilt in her works of fiction, yet exposes and captures the realities of everyday life in a simple and yet interesting manner through the society's dilemma of accepting change and maintaining the cultural values.
Her years of birth and growth show a woman who had gone through a first hand experience of the social and political nature of the United States. Furthermore, she was a black woman who was born in a time when America was struggling to accept the non-whites as part of the American history. She struggles, albeit in a fictional dimension, to emphasize that each human is uniquely created and has something special to offer irrespective of racial or gender prejudice. Alice's Everyday Use illuminates Walker's life-long attachment to the rural black womanhood. This motif of quilting has become central to Walker's creative works partly because it gives special insight about the strengths of connecting with one's roots and one's past life, which is essential for creating self-awareness. According to Winchell's (281) analysis of Everyday Use, Mrs. Johnson accepts her place as a black woman with ability to slaughter a hog, and acknowledges the value of her fat which keeps her warm as she breaks the ice to get water. However, the mental awareness of imaginary deficiencies within her illustrates the author's acknowledgement of the psychological barriers that African American women faced.
The Thematic View of Everyday Use
Alice gives Everyday Use an approach depicting a life she felt and saw her rural folks lived, including herself, siblings and mother. This deliberate attempt by the author to give voice to traditional marginalized segments of the population is what distinguishes her intentions and motivations from other issues (Moody 229). In fact, everyday life draws several important parallels to the author's own life. Born shortly before the end of the Second World War in Georgia, Walker was brought up in an environment that closely resembles that in everyday life. Alice's parents were very poor as they lived in rundown shacks when racial segregation was legally enforced. She describes the era as America's own period of apartheid, comparing it with the infamous minority White rule in South Africa. Like Maggie Johnson, Walker was disfigured earlier in life (Walker & Christian 49). A stray gunshot left one of her eyes blind and as a consequence, she became shy and recoiled into the world of writing and reading.
And like Dee Johnson whom she describes in Everyday Use, Alice concentrated in her academic journey and excelled in many endeavors, with the support of her mother (Holloway 619). This helped her secure a scholarship to Spellman College in 1961, presenting a turning point in her life. At around this time the political environment was not favorable to the African-Americans and soon Alice found herself deeply involved in the efforts to free the Blackman from the bondage of racial segregation rampant in the American society by then.
Plot and style Development
Everyday Use is about a woman and her two daughters conflicting cultural identity and modernism. The mother narrates the entire story to one of the daughters, Dee but the other daughter Maggie arrives from college and differs sharply with them over the ownership of the heirloom quilts in their home, illustrating the mother's efforts to ensure her children gets the best of the past to acknowledge the future (Moody 233). As the story begins, a rough woman with man-like appearances waits for her daughter, Dee to return home. Dee is a much learned woman who lives in the city. The woman is accompanied by her younger daughter Maggie whose regard for her sister is a mixture of ewe and envy. Maggie seems perplexed on learning some secrets about their family life.
For instance Maggie is surprised to learn that when she was young a fire destroyed their family's first house and badly damaged Maggie's body. There are still visible scars on Maggie's body. Her sister fared well. It is like she then had a charmed life and it seems that whenever the world said no to Maggie, it never did that to Dee. Just then the other daughter arrives and the discussion continues. Down the road, disagreements pop up in respect of certain aspects of the family's ancestry and some aspects of traditions in their historical backgrounds.
The style applied by Alice in the story illustrates her interests on the lives of the African American women immediately after World War II. She uses first person point of view, the reader is able to learn what the narrator thinks about the future of her two children.
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