Everyday Use Summary and Analysis of Everyday Use


The story begins with Mom waiting in the backyard for her eldest daughter Dee to return. Mother’s yard is an extension of her living room: the dirt ground streams into the small shack without separation. We are informed little about Mom’s hubby; he is just out of the picture and all of Mama’s achievements, consisting of the raising of her children, appear to be done by her own hand. Walker does not specify the geographical setting outright, but we can assume that Mother’s small farm lies somewhere in rural Georgia.

Mom discusses her younger child Maggie. Maggie nervously expects her big sister Dee. Maggie is worried about the emotional stress and stress and anxiety that will include Dee’s arrival. Mom visions about being on the Johnny Carson Program and reuniting with Dee in front of a sea of white faces.

Mother breaks out of her reverie to explain the truths of her life. Unlike the slim and lighter-skinned dream of herself on the Johnny Carson Show, Mom has darker skin and is big boned, wearing overalls instead of womanly clothing. She points out that her fat keeps her warm in the winter and cool in the summer season. Mama does the work of two males on her farm. She can kill a bull calf and have the meat hung up to chill by nightfall.

Maggie hides in the shadows not wanting to be fully noticeable. Mom describes her as a lame canine. Mama recalls the fire that burned their first house down. Maggie still bears the scars of that fateful night. Mother also remembers that Dee just stood there and watched the house burn with a condescending smile on her face. To Dee, the old home defined them as bad black farmers, the descendants of sharecroppers. Mother remembers how Dee willed herself to be various from her rural next-door neighbors with her book smarts and by having a style all her own. Dee wanted nice things and was intent on getting them. If she couldn’t manage to purchase fancy clothes, she would make them. She hardly ever heard the word “no”.

Dee finally arrives wearing a vibrant, trendy African gown. Maggie attempts to bolt for your house however Mother stops her. Dee has altered her name to the more “African” sounding “Wangero”. Mother attempts to discuss that her provided name Dee holds deep household meaning however “Wangero” insists that, at one time, it should undoubtedly have been a slave name forced on them by white owners. Mom remembers that she and her church made great sacrifices to send out Dee to school in Augusta, where she learnt more about her historic roots. Dee greets them with an emphatic “Wa-su-zo-Tean-o”, a Ugandan greeting. She introduces her partner Hakim-a-barber, whom Mom calls “Asalamalakim” after his Muslim greeting. Mama is weary of Dee’s quick entryway back into her life.

Dee has actually come back to claim some old blankets that she has a newfound “historical” gratitude for: she thinks they would make stylish design for her apartment or condo. To Dee, the quilts represent the historic significance of an oppressed people. The problem is that Mother has a lot more useful use for the quilts; Mom plans to give them to Dee’s much less advanced, and less garish, more youthful sister Maggie. Unlike Dee, Maggie is destined to get wed within the community and live out her life in a setting much like Mama’s.

Hakim-a-barber attempts to kiss Maggie however she recoils in horror. They take a seat to consume but, while Dee treats the meal as an unique buffet, Hakim-a-barber reveals that he can’t eat an unclean animal like pork. Both feign interest in visiting with Mother and Maggie as they rifle through Mom’s home trying to find “charming” collectables. Dee makes a lots or two buying from insults, veiled as casual “chit-chat”, directed at Mom and Maggie. She firmly insists that Maggie will utilize the quilts she desires for daily use. Maggie tries to reveal her displeasure with her sis by dropping a plate in the shadows however she finally catches Dee’s forcefulness. In her meek voice, Maggie squeaks that Dee can have the quilts.

Mom, however, has had enough of this emotional bludgeoning, and informs Wangero to take 2 other quilts not intended for Maggie and leave. Dee tells Maggie to make something of herself and paradoxically tells Mama that she doesn’t comprehend her own heritage. Then both Dee and Hakim-a-barber climb into their automobile and vanish in a cloud of dust as quickly as they got here.


Alice Walker does a proficient task at blurring the distinction between the stereotypes of rural black American women with the truths that comprise their lives. To the casual viewer, Mom’s old homestead looks worn out: a stereotype of the humble lives of poor black subsistence farmers of the Old South. Mother’s yard is however clean and she discovers her house comfortable and relaxing. Although Mother’s eldest child Dee and her “buddy” Hakim-a-barber will look down on the way she lives, her reality is her own and she takes pride in what she has actually accomplished. Informing the story in first individual permits the reader to enter Mom’s point of view without judgment. As Mother discusses her situation in a matter-of-fact tone, Walker has the ability to paint the picture of the setting in a neutral way.

The reader is presented to the stress between Mama and her oldest child Dee early in the story. Mama fantasizes about the sort of reunion she may have with Dee on television. She thinks about Johnny Carson and a sea of white people waiting to be warmed by the reunion of a bad black female and her long lost daughter who has “made it” worldwide. There are the requisite tears and sighs from the audience. Mama stands sheepishly to one side while Dee takes control of the circumstance. Mom admire how Dee can manipulate the white audience, twisting her own history into a narrative they want to hear. Here we see Mother envisioning her child’s dream, not her own. It is vital that in this fantasy, Mom envisions herself as lighter – in complexion, body weight and wit. She understands that she does not fit the perfect that Dee so frantically desires. Mother comprehends that Dee abhors her situations, and Mother wishes she could be what her child desires. However, she comprehends that this can not be, and she is who she is.

In real life, Mom is not “camera-ready”; she is big and big boned. She uses flannel nightgowns to bed and old thick overalls throughout most days. There is a quiet genuineness about Mama that earns her the reader’s respect early in her story. She is loving, flexible, and frank. She has no illusions about either of her daughters. Her memories of Dee growing up assistance give us perspective on the self-absorbed buying from young woman who will quickly blow through her house. Mother declines to draw attention to herself: she personifies a values substantiated of humbleness and usefulness. Certainly, she never even tells us her name; her identity is consisted of a hard life of experience and her position as head of her matriarchal family.

Unlike Dee, Maggie will be the one to inherit that position from Mom. While Dee is smart and assertive, Maggie is “sluggish” and withdrawn; while Dee preens over her appealing appearance and lighter skin, Maggie darts far from her own reflection, so uneasy of her plainness and scars. Mama explains Maggie as an injured animal who must live her life forever ruled over to forces higher than her own will. Throughout the story, Maggie is described in less than flattering terms. Although loyal and caring, Mama does not strengthen her with any strong qualities. It is much more befuddling that Mother believes Maggie incapable of acquiring any strong qualities. Mother’s half-compliments about Dee’s natural charm, “lighter skin”, and clever wit is juxtaposed with her remarks about good looks, cash, and quickness passing Maggie by. Mom has long been content with her lot in life and projects this very same sense of fatalism onto young Maggie. According to Mother, the best Maggie can expect is to “marry John Thomas (who has mossy teeth in an earnest face).” Similar to Dee, Mom’s restrictions assist form her strengths. However with her acceptance of circumstance comes complacency. Maggie is, nevertheless, still young and Mom fails to accept that her life has possibilities. While Mom has carved out a life for herself, she gives us the sense that Maggie will stop working at becoming a person; she will vanish into a life of farm work, looking after children, and ending up being an extension of her husband.

Even as a girl, Dee searched for what she perceived as “better”. She desired nice things and trendy clothing. Dee was self-possessed, clever and critical. Her mind craved education. For Dee, education was a method to transcend her experiences and anticipate a brighter future for herself in the dawn of the Civil Rights age. Education was not something Mom had access to; the school closed in second grade and no one ever asked why. She says, in 1927, “colored asked less questions than they do now.” (92) Her generation was more contented with their lot in life, not for absence of pride or hope, but due to the fact that of the oppressive system of racism that made a life like Dee’s impossible for Mama. Dee, nevertheless, did not take no for a response. Her immaturity and selfishness were tools used to get away a life she did not want.

Nevertheless, Dee is extremely judgmental and ignorant about Mother and Maggie’s lives. She firmly insists that Mom and Maggie “choose” to live where they do. While they may accept their fate, Maggie and Mother did pass by the life they were born into. Though Dee has access to altering times, not everybody born in the poor, rural black South has the ability to craft a brand-new life and identity out of sheer will – and the monetary assistance from Mama and her church. In return for her family’s kindness, Dee patronized them with stories of other individuals’s lives and more “civilized” methods. Dee used her education as a weapon to wield versus her own household.

Dee has reinvented herself as Wangero, and wears an intense African dress that Mama dislikes initially. Dee states that she declines to go by the name offered to her by white oppressors. Mama efforts to inform “Wangero” on the family lineage of her name. Dee rebukes her immediate genealogy, declaring that all their names come from white servant owners at one point in history. This is indeed real, yet Dee’s adoption of Wangero and her Ghanaian welcoming read as a superficial effort to bury a previous she dislikes.

The irony of Dee rebuking her own heritage in exchange for thought of pre-slavery identity is what forms the remainder of the story. She photographs her family home as an archaeologist would for National Geographic. Dee makes sure she gets a photo of Mom, the old house, and Maggie trembling in the corner. Both Mom and Maggie are objectified and exploited in these pictures, like actors in outfit at some living tourist museum. Dee pictures herself a journalist with a keen insight into her own life, however this insight is sanitized rather than enlightened by education in addition to her personal hypocrisy.

Dee’s shift in attitude is more totally exposed throughout dinner. Hakim-a-barber declines to eat collards and pork, calling them “dirty”. Dee enters into her food like a traveler who has just discovered her brand-new favorite ethnic meal. Dee gets delighted about the benches, butter churn and numerous other items, which she considers important artifacts, around your home. Dee finds them charming and worthwhile masterpieces for her house. Dee unexpectedly ends up being focused on some quilts that were created by Grandma Dee, Big Dee, and Mama – regardless of earlier rejecting them as disgustingly quaint signifiers of her rural youth. She wants them now due to the fact that she thinks they represent the historic significance of an oppressed people. Her education has taught her the value of the quilts, however only as products of the past, removed of their familial context.

Mama tells Dee that she can have a set of more recent quilts but Dee objects. Mama firmly insists that the quilts will go to Maggie who will utilize them after she gets wed. Wangero becomes incensed that her much less advanced sister will put the quilts to “daily use”. Finally we see that even Mom has a breaking point. Similar to her musing about the Johnny Carson Program, whatever hopes that Mother may have had of re-connecting with her daughter end up being the things of fantasy. Mother can no longer endure Dee’s shaming. In Mother’s very first real act of dissent, Mama informs Dee to take a couple of the other blankets if she wishes and goes out of the house. Walker concludes her characterization of Dee with a final insult veiled as recommendations: she tells Mother that, “you simply don’t … understand your heritage.” (96) This passive aggressive mockery is encompassed Maggie also when Dee informs her to “make something of herself.” Of course, Mama understands her heritage is more than signs or artifacts, but of the context of household that developed them. Custom can not be boiled down to a decorative item; it is still living and breathing, in Mom and Maggie.

The instant conclusion the reader has about Dee may usually be unfavorable. This conclusion, nevertheless, is mainly born out of Dee’s immaturity towards both her heritage and her own household. There is a subtext to Dee that Walker subtly weaves throughout the story. Dee would have needed to conquer numerous challenges to specify of her loud and garish arrival to Mother’s house. Being smart was not enough for a black woman from rural Georgia to master an institutionalised white university. She would likewise have actually needed to be tenacious and driven. Paradoxically it is the parts of Dee’s personality that we might find objectionable that has actually enabled her deeper understanding of herself, nevertheless misdirected. Even Mother gives Dee the advantage of the doubt at first. Mother does not object about Dee’s name change, and insists she will call her child by whatever name she picks for herself. While Mom has no time at all for pretense, she does provide a more well balanced and intricate insight into the struggle represented by the ladies’ behavior. Mother can see best and wrong in both kids, and in both perspectives. But she does put her foot down when Dee tries to take Maggie’s quilts away. In Maggie’s marriage, she will keep the traditions gave from her aunties and granny alive. Giving Dee the quilts would eliminate what Dee thinks is already dead. However Maggie can continue traditions into the future by putting these modest objects to daily usage.

In the end, Wangero severs her connection with her genuine heritage for a thought of elegant heritage; in her drive to create a “new day” for Black Americans, she has actually likewise dismissed the very people that have actually formed it.