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Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” Essay Sample

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Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” Essay Sample

In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” the internal conflict between Mama and Dee causes the external conflict of the quilt. Mama has a lot of hurdles in her lifetime but she tries and does the best she can for Dee and Maggie. Dee does not show her appreciation towards Mama and this is where it puts a struggle in their relationship. Dee shows the huge transformation she has at college and this is where the differences in her shows from her living at home to her coming back home to visit her family.

Mama’s internal conflict makes her the way she handles issues. She has to survive with what she is given and this makes her a strong individual. Mama lives a very simplistic life and has to work and earn everything that she owns. Dee does not have to earn anything because she grows up having her mother doing everything. Also Mama and the church raise money for Dee so she is able to go away to school. By the church and Mama doing this for Dee, it shows how much compassion they have that someone so poor has the opportunity to be very successful in life.

Dee’s internal conflict makes her have a disconnection with her family and the family’s ancestry. When she was young, instead of Mama reading to Dee and Maggie, Dee use to read to Mama and Maggie: She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know. Pressed us to her with the serious way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand (364-365). This is how Mama describes Dee and her actions, which are mostly accurate. Dee has a judgmental nature that has affected both Mama and Maggie. Both of them urge for Dee’s approval on everything but Dee does not make an effort to get Mama and Maggie’s approval.

Another reason why Dee has a disconnection with her family’s ancestry is because she glamorizes Africa into something better than what Africa actually is. Dee connects herself to an idealized Africa instead of embracing the lessons and realities that indicate what the African American population is experiencing in America. Instead of commemorating and embracing the family’s ancestry, Dee looks down on her circumstances and conditions because she believes that she is above the rest of her family.

Also when Dee comes home, she says that her new name is Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. By changing her name, Dee wants to make it seem that she is in touch with the African heritage. But she does not realize that her name already comes from her heritage. When Mama says, “‘You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie. Dicie is my sister. She was named Dee’” (366). Dee has the knowledge to understand the history of her ancestry but she does not understand that Mama and Maggie are apart of the history as well.

The quilts represent what Maggie, Dee, and Mama’s family is going through and the history of African Americans in America. The blocks of the quilt are pieces of clothing that belonged to the ancestors of the family. One block was from the Civil War that came from Mama’s Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform. Dee says she would hang the quilts on the wall because she sees them at pieces of art rather than where each individual piece came from. Mama does not want these quilts to just be hung up on a wall and called art.

She wants them to be used and cherished. Mama says, “‘The truth is, I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas’” (368). Mama would rather give the quilts to Maggie instead of Dee because Mama knows that Maggie will use them to keep her and John Thomas warm at night. Mama is astonished when Dee asks if she could take the two quilts but so is Maggie. Maggie shows he frustration without saying a word by slamming the kitchen door. This action makes Mama realize that she finally has to stand up to Dee and say no.

Even though Mama and Maggie are uneducated, they understand the meaning of family and heritage. Dee has all the education and sophistication but she cannot comprehend the meaning of family and heritage. Mama’s conflict with having to survive with what she has makes her a strong individual. Dee’s conflict with the disconnection of her family and the heritage of the family shows that she is arrogant and that she thinks that she is more superior over the rest of her family. These conflicts show, to stay true to family and heritage and to not take family for granted.

Work Cited
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th Compact ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 363-369. Print.

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