Homework Help

In Alice Walker's "Everyday Use." how do the characters change over the course of the...

user profile pic

qiutear | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 15, 2013 at 6:24 PM via web

dislike 1 like

In Alice Walker's "Everyday Use." how do the characters change over the course of the story?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” employs a first person point of view.  Mama serves as the narrator and protagonist in the story.  This is Mama’s story about her daughter Dee’s return home after being away at school. It has been a long time since Dee decided to see her mother and sister Maggie.

Mama and Maggie await the visit sitting in the front yard.  They have worked hard to get everything clean to impress Dee.  Before Dee left for school she made it quite clear that she did not like anything about her home. Dee had a bigger dream for her life.  When Mama 's church provided Dee with her college money, everyone supported Dee’s going to school.

How do the characters change in the story?

Dee changes superficially.  Caught in the 1970s trend of looking for a person’s black heritage, Dee has changed her name to a Black Muslim name.  In addition, her dress and jewelry also reflect an African flavor. 

Dee still does not appreciate her mother or sister. Dee was named after her maternal grandmother. Yet, she changes her name so that it reflects the African rather than the American Black.

Ironically, Dee comes back home to take back with her Mama’s belongings which Dee would like to use to point out her black heritage.  Her grandmother made the quilt that she wants; and yet, her name is not good enough for her.

Immediately,  Dee searches her mother’s house looking for items that she can use in her new house as decorations. Dee did not like her home before she left.  Nothing has changed.

Maggie’s burn in the home fire has left her emotionally damaged.  She knows that Dee is prettier, lighter skinned, and quicker to learn in the school setting.  When Mama refuses to give the quilts made by the grandmother, Maggie offers to let Dee take them anyway. 

To Maggie, nothing is worth the conflict which arises from the quilt controversy.  On the other hand, when Dee asks for the quilts Maggie reacts by dropping and breaking a dish. 

At the end of the story, Mama realizes that she does not need Dee.  She already has the daughter who wants to be with her and appreciates the family heritage and the ancestors. For the first time, Mama kisses Maggie and really looks at her. 

Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses [Dee’s]. But a real smile, not scared.  After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff.  And then the two of us sat there just enjoying… 

Maggie smiles not nervously but happily for the connection with her mother for which she has longed.Mama has always given Dee everything that she wanted. Her clothes, her needs---these were put before the rest of the family.  

When Dee arrives home with her newfangled ideas, Mama seems to go along with it good naturedly.  It is Mama understands what these valued items mean to Dee that makes Mama turn to Maggie rather than wait for Dee to grow up. 

Mama  dreams that Dee and she would be on a television show together. Dee would embrace her mother. However, Dee lack of connection to her heritage does not set well with Mama. 

Dee tells Mama that Maggie will not appreciate the quilts and will actually use them every day.  This is one step too far.  Mama takes the quilts from Dee and refuses to allow her to take them. 

For the first time, Mama stands up to Dee and understands that it is Maggie that is the daughter that loves her and wants to be near her.  It is Maggie that knows all of the family stories andwill honor the family legacy.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes