Thematic Analysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
ThematicAnalysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
Inliterature, a theme is presented in the way the protagonist isdeveloped or rather in the manifestation experienced by theprotagonist. Nevertheless, in some stories, one or more focalcharacter may be in existence and thus there must be a crossexamination of the themes and experiences of at least one person. Theaim of this article presents heritage and its implications. Like inour everyday lives, heritage ranges from cultural objects, monumentsand traditions that are passed from one generation to another. Thedifferent scenarios the characters go through presents the theme in amore sound way.
Ineveryday use by Alice Walker, heritage is evident in the waydifferent characters live and as a whole, the perceptions that areinherent in them plays a pivotal role in resonating the theme. Amongthe three characters, the themes are quite different depending on therole they play and their own experiences. The daughters together withthe mother display differently thematic settings. In this essay,finding of the history is not the sole way to find your roots. Thecultural diversity passed on and newer traditions such as names andevents are vital in connecting with one own heritage. For example,Dee has shifted from an adorable pretty girl with a shallow girl voidof purpose and direction. The change in heritage makes her to wronglyconnect with her own heritage. In one instance, she took the churnmade by her uncle to decorate her house.
Inthe story by Alice Walker, she creates a conflict between characters.When Dee comes to visit Maggie and Mama, the difference is apparent.For example, Dee has changed her name to a more appealing Africanname and she is collecting her past objects. She is more educatedthan her sister and mother and thus she looks down upon them. Inanother example, she asks her Mama for a beautiful family heirloomquilt so that she could hang on her wall, her Mama in response deniedher. Instead, Mama opts to give Maggie the quilt to keep her and herhusband warm. The wish of Dee is to retain the items for decorationpurposes. Mama pauses over the dasher for a moment, noticing that"you didn`t even have to look close to see where hands pushingthe dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in thewood" The theme of Heritage becomes apparent. The theme israther strengthened by use of the symbol, conflict and irony topresent it (Walkerand Barbara 10).
Despitethe three women presented in the story being family members, theirlife perceptions are quite different. For instance, Mama is proud ofwho she really is and lives a happy life. Conversely, Dee has adifferent perception about life. In fact, she sees herself as thecontroller of her own life. In addition, she believes that she hasthe capacity to do what she wants. Mama says “Dee wanted nicethings” and her prettiness makes her get what she really wants. Theattitude is further shown by the way she insists on taking the churn,dasher and the quilts. Maggie on the other hand has accepted life andcontinues living in her uneducated state where happiness is found inthe heart and not material possessions. All the presentations such asquilt and dasher are a clear indicator of one’s own heritage thatis passed on by the older generation to the newer generation (Walkerand Barbara 11).
Thesole conflict between Maggie, Mama and Dee further enhances heritagetheme. When Dee arrives home, her main reason will be to photographher dirt-poor beginnings never at one example stopping to think howMama and Maggie felt. To Dee, the butter Churn is an art object toMama, it is a way of life and an entity of making butter. Previously,Dee had been a spoiled child since her childhood. Her Mama had alwayspampered and spoiled her. Mama is thus fearful of standing for her.Dee can barely understand how her Mama and sister could live in suchan outdated way. By giving Maggie the quilt, Mama shows that sheclearly understands the significance of embracing heritage. Forexample, she understands that to appreciate objects passed on infamilies is rather different from displaying them on the hangingboard while they are still popular and worth money and at the longrun dispose of them away. Dee in this case has become too educatedand very sophisticated for her true humble beginnings. Going toschool for instance has fully changed her mind by being exposed tonew ideas and life. She told her mama that she would visit themalways “but will never bring her friends” (Walker 3) Furthermoreshe is unaware of traditional craft of making quilts but rather knowsthe old quilts as cultural artefacts as priceless and invaluable. Shethinks that heritage is only found in appearance. In fact, she wantsthe churn on top “as a centrepiece for the alcove table” (Walkerand Barbara 12).
Alicewalker further presents heritage through the use of Irony. In oneexample, Dee changes her name to Wangero to display the new fad ofgetting in touch wither heritage. Nevertheless, the name Dee is areflection of the heritage. Her Mama says, "You know well thatyou are named after your aunt Dicie." Dicie was Mama`s sisterand she had called her Dee. Dee is an educated fellow. Her educationcan help her understand her history and the history of her community,but it is ironical that she misses noticing the people around her.She is not an understanding girl. She cannot understand that herfamily is a vital part of their heritage this is ironic. Hakim who isa barber has converted to Islam but chooses to believe certaindoctrines and values and movement of the black power when he refusesto take pork and collard greens. He says "I believe certaindoctrines and values, but farming is not my style." The truth isthat the irony is apparent since Maggie and Mama may not take it as astyle but a way of livelihood and life. It is more of a livelihoodthat they cannot perceive it as a style (Walkerand Barbara 13).
Finally,symbolism presents heritage. The story, everyday use by Alice Walkerdoes not only present symbolism, but it is symbolism in itself.Quilts are the chief symbols. Quilts stands for the ties in thefamily or heritage. Dee preferred to hang the quilts on the wall. Deesays that Maggie cannot comprehend her heritage and thus cannot beappreciative of the quilts but only appreciates when she remembersher grandma. Maggie agrees magnanimously that Dee can take the quiltsto avoid further conflict. She says, "I can remember my Grandmaeven without the quilts." (Walker 14).
Maggieis thus appreciative of her heritage every time she uses the quilts.In this case, heritage means the people that she came from such asher grandma. Conversely, Dee thinks that connecting to the familyroots is a new thing. The aunt Dee that she was named after had madethe quilts by this does not go hand in hand with the reason that sheneeds them. In fact, Dee thinks that her name has no connection withthe ties of her family. She specifically concludes that Dee is a namerepresenting those who oppressed her. “I could not bear it anylonger, being named after the people who oppress me” (Walker 4).Thus, she comes up with a new name that had nothing to do with theties of her family. The importance of heritage is obvious “WhileMama and Maggie may appear backward due to little education, theyunderstand the true meaning of the heritage of the family." Deein contrast has all the education, all the sophistication of theworld, but she is just plain and, therefore, cannot understand thetrue meaning of heritage (Walker and Barbara 15).
Everyday uses by Alice Walker on true inheritance in other words itteaches us on the aspect of true inheritance presented by thecharacters Dee, Mama, and Maggie. Heritage is dependent on whoreceive it and how it is received. In the story, two hand quiltswhich are a symbol of heritage becomes the center of the conflict andalso display the true inheritance. In as much as their personal livesare different, their views heritage is also different. For example,Mama and Maggie perceive heritage as an aspect dealing with thetraditions of the family. Mama is more practical when she give Maggiethe quilts with the hope that Maggie will use them. In the sameregard, when Dee admires the bench, Mama remembers that the bencheswere made by Dee’s father, “when they couldn’t afford to buychairs” (Walker and Barbara 15).
Likequilt, the personal worldview is made up of circumstance, events andinfluences that shape their way of thinking and how their respond todifferent issues of life. In conclusion, the theme of heritage ispresented well throughout the story by use of other narrationtechniques such as symbolism. For example, symbolism clearly presentsthe theme in quilt presentation (Walker and Barbara 20).
Walkeris appreciative of the heritage of a person and states that aheritage should be a dynamic aspect of culture from where it camefrom and not just a timepiece that should be observed from adistance. In other words, it should not be looked at as just historybut rather a living aspect of the past that has carried on to thepresent day. In this regard, culture must be applicable in everydayuse as the title of the poem stipulates to keep the heritage more andmore alive for the future generations
Walker,Alice, and Barbara Christian. EverydayUse.New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1994. Print.