In a paper on "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, what are specific points that should be highlighted?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In any writing, there might be some specific aspects that your instructor has required as included in your paper.  This would be the first step in determining the specific points that should be highlighted. You will need to figure out what has to be included.  Perhaps, you will need to focus on the story's themes or to compare it with another work of literature.  You might have to delve into the characterizations offered.  Examining the potential requirements of any writing assignment and making sure that your paper addresses these points are critical first steps in determining what points should be highlighted.

Within this, there are some specific aspects  that probably will be addressed in any analysis of Walker's story.  I think that one particular point would be to analyze the role of heritage or legacy in the story.  In the two sisters, Walker suggests that understanding one's heritage is vitally important to one's identity.  Both Dee and Maggie recognize the value of their heritage.  Their divergence lies in the rationale for such appreciation.  Dee sees her past, evident in the desire for the quilts, as an example of how her cultural heritage can be appreciated in the external sense.  Dee values her cultural heritage from a sensory based perspective.  For example, she likes the quilts because she would "hang them" and that they were stitched by hand, appreciating them for their aesthetic and external value.  This is in stark contrast to Maggie's appreciation for the quilts:  "She can have them, Mama,' she said like someone used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her.  'I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts."  This exchange highlights one of the most specific points that Walker makes about the relationship one has towards their past.  There is a difference between recognizing one's past for external value and for its internal appreciation.  Dee's desire for "nice things" such as her graduation dress and her embrace of Afrocentric identity as a means for external appreciation is different than Maggie's internal embrace of her past, something she can "remember" in her own mind.  Walker's treatment of how one's past or sense of identity is understood is a critical point in the story.  It would also represent a point that would almost have to be woven into any analysis of it.

I think that another critical point to be made emerges from the story's analysis of one's past.  The mother acts embraces the narrative role both in her story and in her life.  She ruminates and as she does so her in literary capacity, it becomes clear that this reflective notion is evident in her own life, as well.  For the mother, the paradigm between Dee and Maggie is one between the individual who "has it all" and the one who lacks it.  Given how Dee has always been the object of others' affection because of the extreme importance she gives to looks and image, qualities and levels upon which Maggie cannot compete, the dichotomy between both is clear.  It is for this reason that Dee assumes, quite naturally, that she will receive the quilts, akin to how she has received everything that she has wanted in her life.  Yet, when the mother advocates for Maggie, it is a critical moment.  The instant when Dee says that she wants the quilts, the mother notes Maggie's reaction:  "I heard something fall in the kitchen [where Maggie was] and a minute later, the kitchen door slammed."  When the mother indicates that Maggie is going to receive the quilts, Dee is aghast, a reaction conveyed with the mother's noting that she has been "stung" by a bee.  The mother no longer can remain detached from the paradigm in which one sister is socially deemed as a success and the other one looks "like someone used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her."  The mother must take action, making right that which is wrong.  She advocates for the sister who does not have anyone advocating for her.  The mother's need to take action to maintain an order of righteousness and ethical conduct is a meaningful point in the story.  The mother sees what is and acts in the name of what should be, a transformative quality that shows that our future can be something that we can control, even if our past lies beyond it.  This is an important point in the story and something that might find its way in an analysis of the story's features.

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