Describe the narrator in "Everyday Use".

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The narrator in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker is Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson is depicted as a genuine, practical woman, who is a loving mother and cherishes her family's heritage. Although Mrs. Johnson is not formally educated, she is intuitive and recognizes the value of living history. She is also a sympathetic woman and defends her timid daughter by refusing to give Dee the handmade quilts. Mrs. Johnson is also resolute, understanding, and fair.

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Mrs. Johnson narrates the short story "Everyday Use" and is depicted as a sincere, genuine woman, who loves her children deeply and understands the importance of her family's complex heritage. Mrs. Johnson begins the story by daydreaming about being on a television show and reuniting with her oldest daughter Dee. After imagining the pleasant daydream, Mrs. Johnson offers the reader a brief, accurate description of herself as a rough, hard-working woman, who is not formally educated but can provide for her family. Mrs. Johnson's accurate description illustrates her rational, sensible personality. Mrs. Johnson goes on to display her perceptive nature by describing her daughters in detail. She sympathizes with Maggie because she is timid and has scars from being burned in a house fire. Dee is the complete opposite and is depicted as an attractive, confident woman, who is educated and arrogant. Mrs. Johnson once again demonstrates her authentic personality by admitting that she is not as intelligent as Dee and acknowledging that she struggles to correctly pronounce her name.

Although Dee is educated, she does not appreciate her heritage or recognize the importance of living history. When Dee requests to have the two antique handmade quilts promised to Maggie, Mrs. Johnson demonstrates her bold, resolute nature by refusing to give them away. Mrs. Johnson realizes that Dee does not genuinely understand their heritage and Maggie deserves to have the quilts. Unlike Dee, Maggie embraces her complex family history and genuinely values the handmade quilts. The quilts are more than just attractive artifacts and are sentimental to Maggie. Mrs. Johnson's decision to challenge Dee and defend Maggie portrays her as a fair, just woman, who values her heritage and defends vulnerable individuals. In conclusion, Mrs. Johnson is a sincere, loving mother, who is aware of her shortcomings but understands the value of living history.

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Mrs. Johnson’s narration is honest and forthright. The reader sees the story ”Everyday Use” by Alice Walker through Mama’s eyes. Dee and Maggie—Mama’s daughters do not make life any easier for her.  The author chose not to provide the mother's name, so she Mama or Mrs. Johnson.

As the narrator, Mrs. Johnson provides information about her life and the differences between her daughters.  Her life has been harsh and filled with hard work.

I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man.  I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing…

Mama has never been to school, and thus she cannot read. Most of her life she has worked like a man and worried about her daughters.  Her daydreams revolve around her daughter Dee and the two of them on a television show.

Maggie, her youngest daughter, has become Mama’s companion.  She worries about Maggie because she has lost her connection to the real world. Severely injured when the family’s house burned several years before, Maggie is both emotionally and physically scarred. According to the narration, Maggie both loves and resents Dee.

Neither of the women understand Dee who represents everything that both Mama and Maggie are not. She is pretty, self-confident, educated, insensitive, and extremely selfish.  Unconcerned about Mama and Maggie, Dee hates her life at home.  When she goes off to school, Dee becomes interested in the Black Muslims and changes her name to Wangero. 

What happened to Dee? I wanted to know.

She’s dead,” Wangero said. ‘I couldn’t beat it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.’

Ironically, those oppressive people are Dee’s purpose in visiting her mother.  Through the narration of Dee’s visit, Mama reveals her deep love for both of her daughters; however, Dee goes too far when she does not respect her legacy supplied by her ancestors. Dee wants to take two quilts dating back to the Civil War and other memorabilia.   Her intention is to display the quilts on her walls to show her black heritage.  She believes that she is African not African –American.

For the first time, Mama says “No” to Dee. She refuses to give the quilts to her.  These quilts represent Mama’s connection to her past.  They had been made by loving hands from pieces of clothes of her ancestors. They are important to Mama. She tells Dee that she has promised the quilts to Maggie.  Dee has the world before her, and Maggie has little to show for her existence.

For the first time, Mama realizes how important Maggie is to her and draws near to her.  Dee can find her way in the black world.  Mama and Maggie will sit on the porch and enjoy the solitude.

Using the mother to narrate the story, the author points up the importance of both aspects of black heritage.  The black people are not just African, but African-American.   When Mama speaks, Alice Walker, the author,  finds her voice.


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The mother as narrator of Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" is a fairly simple woman who self-esteem is rather low at the beginning of the story.  She has made the best preparations that she can with her yard, but is anxious about seeing her daughter, who has gone to college when she has had no education herself; she has trouble looking some people in the eye, whereas Dee does not: "Hesitation was no part of her nature."  As she anticipates the arrival of her successful daughter, the mother imagines a prettier, slimmer version of herself meeting her on a TV show.

However, as the story progresses, there is a transformation in the mother.  For, she realizes that Dee's new thinking is not necessarily better.  The articles in the house that Dee wants are valued because they are stylish; Maggie and her mother are endeared to them because they remind them of their loved ones.  With this realization, Mrs. Johnson looks at Maggie:

When I looked at her like that, something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet.  Just like when I'm in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout.  I did something I never had done before:  hugged maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts our of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap.  Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.

No longer worried about what Dee thinks of her, Mrs. Johnson rewards the daughter most deserving.  "Maggie smiled;...a real smile, not scared....And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.

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