How is the plot structure of "Everday Use" developed?
As a work of fiction, "Everyday Use" demonstrates a transition from one type of development to another. There is a mixture of narration and reflection in the first sixteen paragraphs, in which the narrator, Mrs. Johnson, describes herself while reflecting on the background and characteristics of her two daughters. At paragraph 17 the dramatic section of the story begins with the appearance of Dee and "Hakim-a-Barber." After this time the story is reportorial and dramatic in nature, inasmuch as the narrative is about the dinner and also the requests (demands?) of Dee to secure the family artifacts. An answer to the issue about the use that fiction makes of both narration and dialogue is that there should probably be a mixture of the two. Too much material like that at the beginning, which is mainly reflective, might cause a person to lose interest, but with the action and the dramatic dialogue together, along with Mrs. Johnson’s observations, great interest is preserved.
Alice Walker develops the plot of her short story by contrasting three conflicts as they are portrayed in the lives of the two sisters Maggie and Dee.The three conflicts which structure Alice Walker's moving short story "Everyday Use" are:
1. Fantasy and reality: The story begins with the mother dreaming and fantasizing about how she would like her relationship with Dee to be:"You've no doubt seen those TV shows where the child who has "made it" is confronted..........But that is a mistake. I know even before I wake up." The mother desires to have a sentimental relationship with Dee whom she expects to be overwhelmingly and eternally grateful towards her for all the sacrifices she had made to give her a prosperous life style. Hence the difference between the mother's dream and expectations and the reality of the situation where Dee has scant regard or respect for her mother's expectations.
2. Conservative and progressive attitude: Dee has changed her name into the African Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, because her old name "Dee" reminded her of her white colonial masters. Outwardly her reason for changing her name might be politically correct but its certainly not culturally correct. Her entire past is negated because of this name change. Dee's mother traces the family history of that name saying, "though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches." Thus the conservative attitude of the mother clashes with the progressive attitude of Dee.
3. Education: Dee was the intelligent girl who graduated from high school in Augusta unlike Maggie who "knows that she is not bright" and only semi literate; the mother of course confesses, "I never had an education myself." Thus education and a lack of education is also a source of conflict in the mother-daughter relationship and sister-sister relationship:
"Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe."