Which author more successfully establishes and communicates the theme to the readers between this text and Nadine Gordimer's "Once Upon a Time?"

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In comparing "Everyday Use" and "Once Upon a Time," I always appreciate Walker's ability to more clearly convey her themes in her story to the reader rather than Gordimer.

In "Everyday Use," Alice Walker provides a stark contrast between two sisters who come from the same background, but view their identical heritage in a very different way.

Dee outright dismisses the sacrifices of her ancestors in America, almost insulting them for assimilating into a new culture and letting the white race control them to the point that she believes they have lost touch with their African roots. Maggie, on the other hand, embraces her heritage, and in doing so, conveys her pride in what her ancestors did so that Maggie can enjoy the life she now has.  In comparing the two women in their tug-of-war over an old quilt their deceased grandmother finished, the reader is able to see where each character's priorities lie.

I find that the title, "Everyday Use," offers the notion that Maggie's heritage is a living thing which she appreciates every day. In this way, she honors the lives of those who have come before her.

For Dee, trying to associate more closely to her African heritage (by changing her name and manner of dress) seems to be nothing more than the making adjustments because they "look good," which is the reason she wants the quilt: it will "look good" in her home. It has nothing to do with a sense that her lineage makes her proud for her forefathers (and mothers) overcoming obstacles, surviving and thriving, but more because of how it all makes her appear to other people.

"Once Upon a Time" seems less believable to me. I think the concept of telling a fairytale holds promise for a storyteller, but I cannot identify with the truth of her themes as I can with Walker's short story.

I am not an African-American, but I can appreciate the sense of letting one's sense of self come from experiences, ideas and people we have known, and not from tangible possessions or superficial expressions of unimportant things such as clothes, etc.


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Everyday Use

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