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Practicality over Aestheticism In Alice Walkers Everyday Use - Essay Example

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Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" is a story of generational conflict focused around heritage. The narrator is a mother of two daughters and lives somewhere in the rural south, as evidenced by the house being located in a pasture and in a climate warm enough to justify having no glass in the windows…
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Practicality over Aestheticism In Alice Walkers Everyday Use
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Download file to see previous pages This is due not only because Maggie has remained at home with her mother, but because Maggie has learned the skills necessary to their normal existence, skills passed down from preceding generations. Dee shows an interest in family heritage as well, but her exposure to academic and social movements has shifted her priorities to the African connection rather than the African-American roots of her immediate family. This paper will examine how Walker displays a partiality for practical applications of heritage rather than abstract academic curiosity.
Dee's degree of distance from her family becomes apparent as soon as she arrives at the house. Her first action is to take a series of photographs to document her family and the domicile, and " never takes a shot without making sure that the house is included." Dee then explains to her family that her name is now Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, citing that her old name was decreed by her 'oppressors' presumably she and her companion are recent members of the Muslim movement, given that the man greets the mother with the phrase "Asalamalakim." Dee claims the churn top and dasher from the dairy churn - not noticing that they are still needed - to incorporate into some type of artistic table. Dee then wants to claim hand-stitched patchwork quilts semn together by several generations of the family, with the intent to display them at her house by hanging them behind glass.
The mother, as narrator, not only shows a knowledge of the family heritage, but still lives in accordance with it. In the very first scene, she expresses an appreciation for her swept yard, saying "It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean" The churn top that Dee wants is described as having "the milk in it clabber by now," implying that the churn is an appliance that still gets frequent use in the household. Her slight favoritism for Maggie is revealed in her defending Maggie's claim on the quilts. In the past, Dee was offered a quilt and disdained to take it; the future of the quilts has since been assigned as a sort of dowry for Maggie's eventual marriage to a boy named John Thomas.
When Dee left to go to college in Augusta, Maggie remained at home and has become saturated with family culture. She has encyclopedic knowledge of family history: when Maggie recalls Aunt Dee's first husband Henry, called stash, whittled the churn dash, Dee observes that "Maggie's brain is like an elephant's." Maggie herself is a walking connection to the family history, for her burn scars came from the destruction of the girls' childhood house. Most importantly, Maggie remained with her family and learned the skills of her preceding matriarchs. Not only has Maggie communed with both her grandmother and her aunt in the actual making of these quilts, she has acquired the skill of sewing them and is now able to pass the knowledge down to following generations.
Opponents of this interpretation would argue that the narrator's perceptions are not only slanted, but hypocritical. They perhaps would argue that the mother's fantasy about meeting her daughter on television indicates a merging of history and progress, with a secret yearning for progress. Another argument could be made that the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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