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English Composition - Essay Example

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One sister, Maggie, lives with her mother. The other sister, Dee, lives a beautiful life in the city. Maggie seems content to stay with her mother but Dee is full of…
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English Composition
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Alice Walker’s Everyday Use Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use” compares two sisters side by side during an afternoon. One sister, Maggie, lives with her mother. The other sister, Dee, lives a beautiful life in the city. Maggie seems content to stay with her mother but Dee is full of constant activity and chatter. Maggie knows all the intimate details of the items around the house but Dee has trouble getting the stories right. Although both of the sisters have a close connection with their heritage, the way they appreciate this heritage is very different.
Maggie and her mother live in a small, poorly built shack. They are country people who are happy living on the edge of the country which is shown when a cow pokes around the backyard. Maggie is content with the idea that she will be marrying an unattractive but dependable man who she doesn’t really love but who she is comfortable with. He also lives in their small town so she won’t need to move too far away from her mother. When she was little, she was trapped in a fire that caused scarring on her arms and legs. Her own ugliness makes her shy and withdrawn. This idea is carried through the story as Maggie seems to only hover around the edges of her sister’s visit. In her interests and activities, Maggie is more like her uneducated mother. Although she tries to read to her mother in the evenings like Dee did, “she stumbles along good-naturedly but can’t see well. She knows she is not bright.” She is used to doing things the same way her ancestors did which is made clear when it’s mentioned that she understood the “small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood” of the butter churn’s dasher. While she values the family’s cultural treasures, she values them on a number of levels. Maggie enjoys her heritage from a lived experience.
Dee, on the other hand, is known for her good looks, her outgoing charm and her ‘refusal to be denied.’ Her mother talks about how she’s had a charmed childhood. She was always able to get her way with other people. She had and still has natural charm and good looks. She is also intelligent which made it possible for her to reach a higher level of education than the rest of her family. Although her mother doesn’t know whether or not Dee’s married to the man she travels, but Mama is afraid to ask. Overall, Dee’s attitude is very much like a middle class urban woman. This life doesn’t seem to be completely satisfying though since she spends her visit desperately attempting to recapture her heritage. From the moment she arrives, Dee begins trying to capture her memories. “She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house.” Dee’s thrill at receiving the average everyday meal her mother makes reveals how much her regular diet has shifted. She acts a lot like someone at a theme park, trying to get a sense of what life was like rather than having any kind of first-hand knowledge of the realities. Thus, she has an appreciation of her heritage from a distance.
Although each girl has a closeness and appreciation for her heritage, Dee’s connection is obviously weakened by her distance from it. She is comfortable in the city and could obviously never be comfortable living the kind of life her mother and Maggie live, but it unclear that she is any happier as a result. Maggie is comfortable with her mother and can’t imagine someone being happy having to constantly struggle to keep up. Toward the end of the story, Maggie captures the difference between herself and Dee when she tells her mom “I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.” Although her heritage pulses in her veins and way of life, she realizes Dee’s heritage is little more than a blanket thrown on for comfort.
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Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” July 14, 2009 Read More
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