What is the climax in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker?  

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gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The climax of Walker's story comes very close to the end. Dee has asked for the quilts that have been in the family, and Maggie has indicated she is willing to relinquish them. At that moment, though, their mother reverses the way things have been throughout their lives and gives Maggie the precious/common symbols of their heritage. This means the world to her, shows that the family is not willing to let Dee walk over them forever, and rocks Dee back on her heels. That's definitely the climax of the story, which Walker wraps up almost immediately thereafter.

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lizedwards | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The narrative of Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" hovers around the decision of which of a mother's daughters will receive the family's heirloom quilts. Maggie and Dee are the narrator's two daughters. Dee has moved away from home and is married. She is in the process of re-defining her identity as an African American woman. Maggie lives at home and remains close to her family's traditional ways. Dee requests the quilts from her mother: she wants to display them by hanging them on a wall. Maggie, however, has been promised them as a wedding present and will likely continue to use them in her household.
 
The narrator's two daughters contrast two different ways to identify as an African American woman in the sixties. Within the two daughters, Walker shows two primary ways to proceed: embrace the past and keep rural tradition, or put it behind us and keep it at a distance. In Maggie's character, Walker portrays the choice to embrace tradition and heritage. In Dee's character, Walker illustrates the choice to put the past behind us.
 
The climax of "Everyday Use" occurs when the mother abruptly decides to give the quilts to Maggie and not Dee (Miss Wangero).
When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I'm in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did something I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.

With this moment as the climax, the mother decides that the quilts should go to Maggie and not Dee. This decision reflects her belief that it is better to keep traditions alive rather than burying them in the past.

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skwon1022's profile pic

skwon1022 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) eNoter

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The climax of the story is the moment when the narrator, Mrs. Johnson, says "something hit me in the top of my head". She realizes the deep spiritual values that her daughter Maggie embodies that she is loving, accepting, and forgiving the life that God apparently wants her to live. To the narrator, this is the moment of religious exaltation and revelation as genuine as any she has had at a church service. she has been "touched" by God in realizing that Maggie (once burned in a fire) has been "touched" by God. 

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