Reflection on Short Story: Everyday Use by Alice Walker
Having read about the author in the prologue, it is clear that Walker’s life experiences and the accompanying social norms of her time provided the backdrop for this story. Therefore, certainly point of view is essential. The story is written from the perspective of someone we know as “Mama” who describes herself and her two very different daughters, Maggie and Dee. From the beginning we can tell that Mama and Maggie are more alike, and that Dee wishes her mom was someone else. Mama is unhappy with how she is viewed by society as she tells her audience about a dream she has where she is on the Johnny Carson show but she is slimmer and lighter skinned than she is in reality. Mama is a thicker, darker skinned woman and feels that Johnny Carson would never really accept someone like her, but that’s the kind of life Dee wants. Perhaps this is Walker’s way of showing an understandable disgust for being judged solely by the color of her skin.
Dee actually announces that she has changed her name to Wangero and introduces her Ugandan/Muslim boyfriend. Dee’s character epitomizes many of that era as they sought to assert their rightful place in the world. Accordingly, some analysis has categorized Dee’s behavior as a “rebuking her own heritage in exchange for imagined pre-slavery identity” which is ultimately what “shapes the rest of the story.” (Gradesaver 1999).
Maggie on the other hand, shies away from herself and everyone else because she has been taught to be ashamed of who she is. She is more like Mama in that sense. Alice Walker was clearly an educated woman but as an African American woman in the 1960s she had to fight for that right. She went to college and became involved in the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1960’s. The way Mama describes Maggie’s apprehension, and Dee’s quest to discover her heritage is reflective of that.
On a side note, after reading this I was reminded of Countee Cullen’s poem Yet Do I Marvel. It was written long before this but entirely relevant considering the author’s point of view here.
Walker, A. (1999). Everyday Use Everyday Use Summary and Analysis. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from http://www.gradesaver.com/everyday-use/study-guide/summary-everyday-use