Everyday Use Introduction
by Alice Walker

Everyday Use book cover
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Introduction

So you’re going to teach Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic short story has been a mainstay of English classrooms for decades. While it has its challenging spots—such as an unreliable narrator—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “Everyday Use” will give them unique insight into characterization, conflict, and important themes surrounding identity and personal empowerment. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1973
  • Recommended Grade Level: 9-12
  • Approximate Word Count: 2,200
  • Author: Alice Walker
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Genre: Short Story
  • Literary Period: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society
  • Narration: First-Person
  • Setting: Rural American South, 1960s
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Unreliable Narrator, Characterization
  • Mood: Conversational, Reminiscent, Amused


Texts that Go Well with “Everyday Use”

The Color Purple (1982), by Alice Walker, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that explores the life of Celie, a poor black girl living in the South. Celie survives incest and abuse, taking control of her destiny when and where she can and recording her story in epistolary form. The Color Purple develops many of the themes present in “Everyday Use” in a full-length novel.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, is a 1937 novel often heralded as one of the great novels in the American canon. The story follows Janie Crawford, a biracial girl in the American South, as she matures through three marriages at the turn of the 20th century. Having survived physical threats, misogyny, and jealousy, Janie returns home and tells her friend Phoeby about her life. Alice Walker celebrates Hurston’s novel for its portrayal of the lives of women of color in the United States.

Song of Solomon (1977), by Toni Morrison, is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Macon “Milkman” Dead III, a man from the fictitious town of Mercy, Michigan. His adventures lead him into an exploration of his ancestry, revealing...

(The entire section is 533 words.)