How are the themes in "Once Upon a Time" by Nadine Gordimer similar/shared with "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nadine Gordimer's "One Upon a Time," and Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" are, at first glance, very different stories.

"Once Upon a Time" sounds like a fairytale, and the reader knows there is a "moral to the story" coming while moving through the tale. "Everyday Use" has a message also, but the story seems based more in the real world rather than in a fantastical place.

Upon further inspection, however, the theme that these stories share is that it is important to remember where you come from, to stay grounded in what is important, and avoid being sucked into areas of life that would pull you away from your personal center.

For instance, in "Everyday Use," Maggie is grounded in her heritage. She knows who she is and what is important to her because she does not lose sight of the importance of the lives of her ancestors in her life. On the other hand, Dee attempts to completely separate herself from the heritage of her people who worked and suffered to make a place for themselves, and ultimately for Dee, in America.

In "Once Upon a Time," the family members become fearful and lose sight of all they have to be thankful for. They have a wonderful home and a life together, but as they obsess and fret, they take more steps to keep the world out, and they are all drawn away from what is truly important: they lose their focus.

The authors here, in very different stories, encourage the reader to "hold fast to that which is good," rather than discarding it for what they believe may be better. It is not the thinking that I believe the authors ask the reader to keep track of, but having a true connection to one's heart. In losing sight of their blessings and all they have to be thankful for, Dee and Gordimer's family lose something precious in their lives.