In “Everyday Use” explain the difference between intellectualism and experience?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Alice Walker's, "Everyday Use," you could apply the intellectual to Dee and her boyfriend and experience to the mother/narrator and Maggie. 

This is not to say that Dee is an intellectual, although she may be.   But she can be seen as representing intellectuals and a movement among intellectuals that sought to transform the black experience in America, particularly the experience of black families.  I have read criticism that insists this is how Walker intended for Dee to be interpreted.  Adherents of this movement  saw the experiences of black families in America as lacking, as Dee does.

In contrast, the mother and Dee form a traditional family and possess their own kind of dignity.  They believe and the story suggests that they do not need anyone coming in from the outside and transforming their lives.  They possess their own traditions and history and have their own lives, and, again, their lives are filled with dignity.

In "Everyday Use," then, experience is revealed as doing just fine without intellectualism.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Dee is what I would call trapped in the concept of intellectualism.  She had grown up loathing her poor lifestyle and everything that represented it.  The house she had lived in and the furniture, etc.  She made herself escape it all by getting a good education and living in the city.  The modern movement is to look at the roots and Dee begins to learn about her heritage in an intellectual way. As she grows into an understanding of pride at her roots, she sees it as more of an intellectual type of endeavor.  Each of the items in her mother's house have a historical or monetary measure.  She does not see the value of the experience of her upbringing, but sees it as something to display like a statue.

Dee's mother and sister feel differently.  Her sister Maggie had look lovingly at the quilts that were made by her mother and grandmother.  She recalls the hands making them and the warmth that they give when it is a cold winter night.  The mother sees the furniture such as the benches with the sets rubbed into them from years of use as being the family simply using them.  The experience itself is her history and value in the things which they own.

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