Mama understands that Dee despises her circumstances, and Mama wishes she could be what her daughter wants. However, she understands that this cannot be, and she is who she is. In real life, Mama is not "camera-ready"; she is large and big boned. She wears flannel nightgowns to bed and old thick overalls during most days.
She is loving, forgiving, and frank. She has no illusions about either of her daughters. Her memories of Dee growing up help give us perspective on the self-absorbed patronizing young woman who will soon blow through her house. Mama refuses to draw attention to herself: she personifies an ethos born out of humbleness and practicality.
Indeed, she never even tells us her name; her identity is comprised 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 Mama.
Mama describes Maggie as a wounded animal who must live her life forever subjugated to forces greater than her own will. Throughout the story, Maggie is described in less than flattering terms. Although loyal and affectionate, Mama does not reinforce her with any strong qualities.
It is even more disconcerting that Mama believes Maggie incapable of acquiring any strong qualities. Mama has long been content with her lot in life and projects this same sense of fatalism onto young Maggie. But with her acceptance of circumstance comes complacency. Maggie is, however, still young and Mama fails to accept that her life has possibilities.
While Mama has carved out a life for herself, she gives us the sense that Maggie will fail at becoming an individual; she will disappear into a life of farm work, caring for children, and becoming an extension of her husband.
She wanted nice things and stylish clothes. Dee was self-possessed, clever and critical. Her mind craved education. For Dee, education was a way to transcend her experiences and forecast a brighter future for herself in the dawn of the Civil Rights era.
Education was not something Mama had access to; the school closed in second grade and no one ever asked why. Dee, however, did not take no for an answer. Her immaturity and selfishness were tools used to escape a life she did not want.
For her the quilts are part of family history, but Dee's attitude to family history is double-edged because she is clearly embarrassed by Mama and Maggie - the living reminders of her family's poor origins. Since the quilts were promised to Maggie when she will eventually marry John Thomas, her mother tried to persuade her to go for the newer ones. Dee is described as a confident woman and a strong willed woman. Publisher: African American Review. However, it is important to note that the significance of culture to a family is varied. The quilts were actually made by Grandma Dee, Big Dee, and Mama, and included scraps of clothing that belonged to both of her grandparents, as well as her great-grandparents and her great-great grandfather She was taught by Dee's namesakes—Grandma Dee and Big Dee—so she is a living part of the heritage that is nothing more than decoration to Dee.
However, Dee is incredibly judgmental and naive about Mama and Maggie's lives. She insists that Mama and Maggie "choose" to live where they do. While they may accept their fate, Maggie and Mama did not choose the life they were born into.
Though Dee has access to changing times, not everyone born in the poor, rural black South is able to craft a new life and identity out of sheer will - and the financial help from Mama and her church. Dee used her education as a weapon to wield against her own family.
Dee has reinvented herself as Wangero, and wears a bright African dress that Mama dislikes at first. Dee says that she refuses to go by the name given to her by white oppressors. Dee rebukes her immediate genealogy, claiming that all their names come from white slave owners at one point in history.
This is indeed true, yet Dee's adoption of Wangero and her Ghanaian greeting read as a superficial attempt to bury a past she despises. The irony of Dee rebuking her own heritage in exchange for imagined pre-slavery identity is what shapes the rest of the story. She photographs her family home as an archaeologist would for National Geographic. Dee makes sure she gets a picture of Mama, the old house, and Maggie cowering in the corner. Both Mama and Maggie are objectified and exploited in these photos, like actors in costume at some living tourist museum.
Dee envisions herself a journalist with a keen insight into her own life, but this insight is sanitized rather than enlightened by education as well as her personal hypocrisy. Dee's shift in attitude is more fully revealed during dinner. Dee gets into her food like a tourist who has just discovered her new favorite ethnic meal.
"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, which depicts the situation of a rural American south family, is one of the widely studied and regularly. Critical Analysis of Short Story Everyday Use by Alice Walker - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online for free.
Dee gets excited about the benches, butter churn and various other objects, which she considers important artifacts, around the house. Dee finds them quaint and worthy showpieces for her apartment. Dee, in other words, has moved towards other traditions that go against the traditions and heritage of her own family: she is on a quest to link herself to her African roots and has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo.
Most obviously—and most importantly—the quilts that Mrs. Most importantly, however, these fragments of the past are not simply representations in the sense of art objects; they are not removed from daily life. After all, what is culture but what is home to us, just as Mrs. Walker, Alice. Kennedy and Dana Gioia.
Dee also changes her name because her family name entirely represents her native identity and it can be traced to her native roots. Alice Walker adds a number of comparative elements in the story which help the reader identify the conflicts of cultures prevailing in the world. A number of people are ashamed of their native identities because they presume that their native roots are not accepted in the world. However, they fail to understand that having an identity is highly important and it is essential to recognize once native roots.
This is the reason why this short story by Alice Walker holds so much importance, specifically for the academics who use this story to explain the importance of identity and culture. The comparison of Maggie and Dee is one that can be associated with on so many different levels.