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What is the theme of "Everyday Use" and how is that theme communicated?

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jessesmartt | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 6, 2007 at 12:52 PM via web

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What is the theme of "Everyday Use" and how is that theme communicated?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 7, 2007 at 5:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Alice Walker's "Everday Use" is designed around the theme of appreciating the past & one's family. This can be a difficult task, at times, because our past & family is so familiar to us (like everyday objects) that we often take it/them for granted.

Walker skillfully proves her point through the two sisters, Dee and Maggie (through the eyes of their mother). Dee wants a contemporary identity, but one tied to her African heritage, which she believes to be more important. Scornfully, she tells her mother not to call her Dee anymore:

"What happened to 'Dee'?" I wanted to know.
"She's dead," Wangero (Dee) said. "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."

Wangero (Dee) thinks she has been named after a white woman. Her mother assures her she was named after her grandmother, but Dee argues that the line goes back to whites.

Maggie, on the other hand, embraces her past, adoring the handmade quilts her grandmother made. Here is revealed the primary difference between the sisters: Dee wants the quilts because they are "art objects" and argues that Maggie "would be backward enough to put them to everyday use."

Everyday use, in the narrator's opinion, is the way to value the past, to keep it alive. It is not keeping it in a museum, or seperating yourself from your family.

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abautista1253 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted November 18, 2010 at 2:05 AM (Answer #3)

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Alice Walker's "Everday Use" is designed around the theme of appreciating the past & one's family. This can be a difficult task, at times, because our past & family is so familiar to us (like everyday objects) that we often take it/them for granted.

Walker skillfully proves her point through the two sisters, Dee and Maggie (through the eyes of their mother). Dee wants a contemporary identity, but one tied to her African heritage, which she believes to be more important. Scornfully, she tells her mother not to call her Dee anymore:

"What happened to 'Dee'?" I wanted to know.
"She's dead," Wangero (Dee) said. "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."

Wangero (Dee) thinks she has been named after a white woman. Her mother assures her she was named after her grandmother, but Dee argues that the line goes back to whites.

Maggie, on the other hand, embraces her past, adoring the handmade quilts her grandmother made. Here is revealed the primary difference between the sisters: Dee wants the quilts because they are "art objects" and argues that Maggie "would be backward enough to put them to everyday use."

Everyday use, in the narrator's opinion, is the way to value the past, to keep it alive. It is not keeping it in a museum, or seperating yourself from your family.

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allenoic | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted October 3, 2011 at 9:53 AM (Answer #4)

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the story also talks about enlightment due to schooling in that Dee realized, only after having learnt adequetly, the importance of one's past (Traditional Values) and thats when she decided to take it up to herself to preserve it despite her methods being "contrary" to those of the narrator.

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