In her narrative “Everyday Usage,” Alice Walker uses up what is a reoccurring style in her work: the representation of the consistency along with the disputes and struggles within African-American culture. “Daily Use” concentrates on an encounter between members of the rural Johnson household. This encounter—- which occurs when Dee (the only member of the family to get an official education) and her male companion go back to go to Dee’s mother and more youthful sister Maggie—- is basically an encounter in between two different interpretations of, or approaches to, African-American culture.
Walker utilizes characterization and importance to highlight the distinction between these analyses and eventually to maintain among them, showing that culture and heritage are parts of every day life. The opening of the story is mainly associated with identifying Mrs. Johnson, Dee’s mom and the story’s narrator. More specifically, Mrs. Johnson’s language indicate a specific relationship between herself and her physical environments: she awaits Dee “in the backyard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy” (88 ).
The emphasis on the physical attributes of the backyard, the pleasure in it manifested by the word “so,” points to the attachment that she and Maggie need to their house and to the everyday practice of their lives. The backyard, in fact, is “not simply a backyard. It is like an extended living room” (71 ), confirming that it exists for her not just as an item of residential or commercial property, but likewise as the place of her life, as a sort of expression of herself.
Her description of herself also shows a familiarity and comfort with her environments and with herself: she is “a large, big-boned lady with rough, man-working hands” (72 )– simply put, she knows the reality of her body and accepts it, even discovering convenience (both physical and psychological) in the manner in which her “fat keeps [her] hot in zero weather” (72 ). Mrs. Johnson is essentially at house with herself; she accepts who she is, and hence, Walker indicates, where she stands in relation to her culture.
Mrs. Johnson’s daughter Maggie is described as rather unappealing and shy: the scars she bears on her body have also scarred her soul, and, as an outcome, she is retiring, even frightened. Mrs. Johnson admits, in a loving manner, that “like good appearances and money, speed passed her by” (73 ). She “stumbles” as she checks out, but plainly Mrs. Johnson thinks about her as a sweet person, a daughter with whom she can sing tunes at church. Most notably, however, Maggie is, like her mother, at home in er traditions, and she honors the memory of her ancestors; for example, she is the daughter in the family who has discovered how to quilt from her granny. Dee, however, is virtually Maggie’s opposite. She is defined by excellent looks, ambition, and education (Mrs. Johnson, we are told, collects money at her church so that Dee can participate in school). Dee’s education has actually been incredibly crucial in creating her character, but at the very same time it has divided her off from her household.
Mamma states, “She used to check out to us without pity; requiring words, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting caught and ignorant underneath her voice” (73 ). Dee, in other words, has actually moved towards other customs that go against the traditions and heritage of her own family: she is on a mission to connect herself to her African roots and has altered her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo.
In doing so, in attempting to recuperate her “ancient” roots, she has at the exact same time denied, or at least refused to accept, her more instant heritage, the heritage that her mom and sibling share. The actions Walker’s characters take, along with their physical attributes, are symbolic of their relation to their culture. Dee’s male buddy, for instance, has actually taken a Muslim name and now refuses to eat pork and collard greens, therefore refusing to participate in the traditional African-American culture. Mrs.
Johnson, on the other hand, has “man-working hands” and can “eliminate a hog as mercilessly as a guy” (72 ); plainly this detail is implied to indicate a rough life, with great exposure to work. Symbolic meaning can also be found in Maggie’s skin: her scars are literally the engravings upon her body of the ruthless journey of life. A lot of undoubtedly– and most notably– the quilts that Mrs. Johnson has assured to provide Maggie when she weds are highly symbolic, representing the Johnsons’ customs and cultural heritage.
These quilts were “pieced by Grandma Dee and after that Big Dee “( 76 ), both figures in household history who, unlike the present Dee, took charge in teaching their culture and heritage to their offspring. The quilts themselves are comprised of pieces of history, of scraps of gowns, t-shirts, and uniforms, each of which represents those people who forged the household’s culture, its heritage, and its values. Most significantly, however, these fragments of the past are not just representations in the sense of art items; they are not eliminated from daily life.
What is most vital about these quilts– and what Dee does not understand– is that they are made up of life, from products that were resided in. This, in essence, is the central point of “Everyday Use”: that the growing and maintenance of its heritage are necessary to each social group’s self-identification, however that also this process, in order to be successful, to be genuine, need to be part of individuals’s use every day. After all, what is culture however what is house to us, simply as Mrs. Johnson’s backyard is home to her.