What are the similarities between Everyday Use by Alice Walker and Lord of the Flies by William Golding?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the surface, Alice Walker's “Everyday Use” and William Golding's The Lord of the Flies do not seem to be very similar. “Everyday Use” is a story about a rural African-American family, while Lord of the Flies is about a planeful of English boys stranded on a remote island in the middle of the ocean.

The thematic similarity in the two narratives lies in the way they examine the group dynamics that take place as the stories reach their respective climaxes.

In “Everyday Use” we see a family of three, made up of Mama, Dee, and Maggie (there is a fourth character, Dee's boyfriend, who is of marginal importance). Dee, the more urbane, sophisticated sister of Maggie, exerts a strange power over her mother and her sister. They find it nearly impossible to defeat her willfullness, so she is able to control them. The story culminates with Mama finally refusing to give in to Dee's demand that Maggie relinquish a prized family heirloom, a quilt, so that she can keep it as an object of historical interest. Mama has, much to everyone's surprise, turned the tables and changed the balance of power in the family inter-relationships.

In Lord of the Flies, the plane-wrecked boys struggle to remain a civilized group in an uncivilized setting. Like Mama and Dee in “Everyday Use,” Ralph, Piggy, and Jack conflict as they try to exert their own authority over others who should, ideally, be cooperating with them. Individuals struggling to maintain autonomy and power in a group often find themselves outcast and alienated. In Lord of the Flies, this conflict proves fatal for several in the group, including Piggy. Unlike Mama's reversal of Dee's power in “Everyday Use,” their attempt to balance the power claimed by Jack and his tribe is unsuccessful.

In both stories, none of the characters function in a vacuum. They are all defined to some extent by their place and power within their respective groups. In one story, characters are able to reclaim some power for themselves, in the other, they are not.

Read the study guide:
Lord of the Flies

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