Literary Analysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
Everyday Use by Alice Walker could be considered one of the notable pieces of American literature. It is a story that tells of an inherent component in the American narrative as a nation, including the story of its people. This particular tale accomplishes this by depicting Americana from the lenses of African American women and the experiences of their race. It is based on the story of a mother and her two daughters named Dee Wangero and Maggie. Throughout the story, the author was able to highlight the conflicts between the two daughters as well as between the daughters and their mother. In the process, Walker was able to explore, discuss, articulate and critique the African American experience as well as those of its womenfolk. The efficacy by which the author was able to tell the tale is primarily on account of the fact that the subjects and themes are close to her heart and activism. One must remember that Walker is a crusader of women’s rights, and is known for her stand against issues such as domestic violence, racism, and sexual abuse. In Everyday Use, Walker illustrates the tension between poverty on one hand and inequality on the other, including the issues previously cited.
Walker first explored how Dee and Maggie grew up together. These two portrayed completely different individualities and they represented several characteristics of African Americans as imposed by society, discrimination, and self-identity. The author was able to highlight how these two have contrasting views about their past and the future and that they reflected the concerns that confronted and continue to confront African Americans. For instance, Walker, through the content and tone of the main character, Mama, showed the varied definitions people have regarding heritage and identity. This not only includes the perspective of others but also the self-image of individuals who are conditioned by society including its prejudices. What is enlightening in this respect is how oppression could be imbibed so that a person discriminates against himself or herself because it is the norm, having known no alternative in the course of his or her life.
Particularly, I have chosen paragraphs 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Walker’s opus in this paper’s discourse. I believe that these summarize the entirety of the piece, particularly the tone and the theme. I have come to understand what the writer was talking about and also the direction that the narrative is going to take because of these passages. This is particularly important because the beginning is convoluted for me. There was a beautiful introduction by way of a person talking about it but I could not place who was talking. There were sisters, Maggie and Dee and for a time I thought the narrator was either one of them. The passages I mentioned sort of cleared the air.
The one narrating the story is the mother and she claimed to be uneducated, large, with all the emotional and psychological baggage imposed by her race during her time. I will use this context to evaluate the passages. I think that it is crucial to make her character credible, which is extremely important because she holds the story together. Inconsistency in this respect could lead to the unraveling of the narrative.
First, the words were simple and the sentences were basic, which validated the background and profile of the narrator. I also did not have any difficulty understanding words because the narrator provided analogies that capture their meaning. The way concepts were presented is also quite remarkable and moving. Take the case of the description of the daughter Maggie. I could have plunged straight to the point and say she is shy and in a brief flash of creativity could even add some words like “she is afraid of her own shadow”. But the author – in the narrator – used a dog, a careless person, a caring individual who was labeled ignorant because of his nature in order to describe Maggie. It is heartbreaking that makes the reader picture the daughter with all the contexts of her circumstance and that of her family thrown in for good measure. For me, it was like, “I have seen Maggie and as if I have known her all her life.” This drew me to her and the narrator’s tale.
There is also the way the narrator’s point of view merges with the daughters. It is like when she described her daughters and compared them, she was also throwing herself in the mix. There were vivid descriptions of herself interspersed with those of her daughters. Also, the way she looks at Maggie with her scars and all makes one realize that perhaps she is looking at a version of herself or at least at a deeper affinity. The narrator has expressed fear and intimidation when faced with white men. She could not look them in the eye and would take the first opportunity to run from them. She marveled at how Dee, her other daughter, was so different but talked about the weaknesses of her other daughter with great familiarity. This, for me, is the highlight of the passages.
All in all, Everyday Use is notable not only because it depicted the people and issues that are prominent fixtures of several pages of American history in a potent and insightful manner. What is also worth noting is the manner by which Walker was able to articulate the themes involved effectively. Embedded within the story of Mama, Dee and Maggie were the complex issues that typified African American life within a period wedged between oppression and liberation. The author deftly navigated through the challenge of portraying such complexities by identifying aspects in the lives of mother and daughters and presenting them in a simple depiction of intertwined lives that made the message all the more heartfelt, recognizable and true. It is also important to note that, in Maggie and Dee, Walker was able to create memorable characters that are representative of the experience, tragedy, and hopes of the African Americans. While Maggie signified the past, for instance, she was treated as someone that must not be forgotten, including the values that defined her as a black person. This is the same in the manner by which Dee was made the embodiment of the now, the future and all possibilities.