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Alice Walker's story, "Everyday Use," uses a number of objects to bring out the message, and these are symbols of slavery, suffering, female domesticity, and cultural heirlooms. When considering the value of such objects, it is found out that their meaning and value are worth to individuals, in this case women, who are in the story, rather than the outsiders of the story. The story itself is gathered around a fundamental image, of which consists of the process of quilting and the quilts themselves. The application of quilting and the quilts is considered to be of significance, especially to critics, since the theme is highly developed and expounded on in her other work. The author uses the key objects, such as the old quilts and the burned house, to bring out the impact that has attracted the attention of the reader towards the conflicts within the story.
Analysis of "Everyday Use," Alice Walker
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"Everyday Use' is a story that has basis set within the rural South American, where an African-American mother fight back to absorb, understand the situation surrounding her, critically evaluate everything under transformation and value the implications of her strongly rural and grubby environment in contrast with her daughter, Dee, who had attained formal culture and improved her lifestyle.
"Everyday Use" written by Alice Walker is a narrative story representing a conflict between two daughters, Maggie and Dee. The narrator of the story is their mother, whom together with Maggie at the beginning of the story they are in their yard earnestly awaiting for the arrival of Dee. The story ends with two of them, Maggie and their mother just sitting there and reacting with happiness and content as they used to be, as Dee goes away (Dick, 1761).
The author, Alice, through the depiction of Dee's trip demonstrates how the two daughter's viewpoints and admiration of their custom vary and how it evaluates to where they stand today. Confusion about the true implication of Dee's heritage is well explained in her eyes. This is quite different with her sister, Maggie, who is believed to be at a higher level of self understanding. The "new" understanding of Dee's heritage is as a result of her going off to college.
Alice enhances her story through a process of describing all the principal characters very carefully. This involves the application of each person's details in helping the reader to come up with an accurate picture paint of the story. She also involves the setting of the story, the use of different symbols and also the first person narrator voice. From the story, Dee is portrayed as smarter, more outgoing, and prettier. With her distant nature, she often daunts Maggie who is shyer.
Therefore, quilt has been considered as a metaphor in this story of "Everyday Use" for the approach in which scraps and fragments that are found to be useless can be brought together to come up with something that is presentable. The same way as the term quilting simply indicates the overall process of which the meaningless and probably unimportant fragments may be changed into things that are useful and have value.
With "Everyday Use" story, Alice Walker is trying to bring out the significance of art, which she describe it as a living, and breathing part of the culture of its origin (Whitsitt, 443). She asserts that art should not be taken as a frozen timepiece that is supposed to be observed from a distance. For the purpose of reinforcing on this point, quilts have been used in Alice's story as an art symbol; and the theory of art is represented by all the happenings caused on the quilts. The quilts themselves, as art, are undividable from the culture they originate from.
History of Quilts in the Story
The history of the quilts used in the story is represented by the family history. This can be proved by what the narrator explains about such quilts, "In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of 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" (Tuten, 125). These are some of the quilts that have developed into an heirloom, and they symbolize the family and also form a basic part of within the overall structure of the family at large.
The concept that Walker is bringing out by applying quilts in this story is the fact that apart from being a representative of the culture it stands for, it is also considered to be an inseparable unit of the same culture it represents. There is a specific way in which the quilts in this story are treated. They bring out Walker's point of view about the treatment of art by the involved individuals. From the story, it is clearly indicated that Dee desires the quilts for the aesthetic value and financial gain that can be achieved from them. She even tries to discourage her mother and Maggie from having them after she discovers that her mother has already promised Maggie to give quilts. "But they're priceless!" she says. Dee continues to disagree by saying that Maggie cannot be entrusted with the quilts, since she is "backward enough to put them to everyday use."
On the other hand, Maggie views the quilts and just values them for what they signify to her as a person, meaning that her association with the existing quilts is on the basis of personal and emotional and not on the aesthetic and financial gains. She therefore, becomes clear with her intension with the quilts when she says; "I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts." For her, quilts are an active and dynamic progression, that through constant restoration they are kept active. Maggie is also supported by narrator, who points out that "Maggie knows how to quilt." (Farrell, 179).
Different objects in the story have been applied to bring out the message, and these are symbols of slavery, suffering, female domesticity, and cultural heirlooms. This means that when considering the value of such objects, it is found out that their meaning and value are worth to individuals, in this case women, who are in the story, rather than the outsiders of the story. As discussed, the story itself is gathered around a fundamental image, of which consists of the process of quilting and the quilts themselves. The quilts' values for both Maggie and Dee correspond to the two main advances to art admiration in different societies. From the story, the value of art has been represented by personal and emotional rationale and or financial and aesthetic motives. Walker ideally brings out on what is supposed to be done so that art can be kept active, which must be set to "Everyday Use." In this case, the second set of values is believed to be right, as the narrator grabs the quilts from Dee and hands them over to Maggie.