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Everyday Use Analytical Essay Format

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Everyday Use Literary Analysis Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a short, yet powerful story about a simple, rural family that’s changed with the return of one of the daughters. Maggie and “Mama” continue to keep the tradition of a simple and hardworking life that seems to be passed down from generations, but we see that Dee has been a black sheep since a young age and holds resentment toward her family because of their lifestyle. Mama was raised into this lifestyle and has become satisfied and happy with it. With her man-ish skills she readily adopts the chores of the life she’s accepted, but like any parent, wants the best she possible can for her dear daughters. Maggie, like her mother, lacks many natural gifts like beauty or brains,…show more content…

Her own beauty was not enough, her style draped her in obnoxious and flashy clothing and jewelry. How lucky Mama and Maggie must have been to be visited by someone that “God himself had shaped” in such a superior way. After Mama and Maggie’s eyes had taken in everything, but before Dee had even yet spoken to them, they noticed her appearance wasn’t the only thing that had changed. After she called to someone from within the car in another language, and before she reaches her patient family, she photographs them in front of the house while making no effort to join them in any of the pictures. As much as she tried, and succeeded, in disassociating herself from her past, she finally found a use for it. Normally the scene of her family outside of her house was what she wanted to escape, but as a photograph they were a trophy. How poor her upbringing, how steep the odds that she would come as far as she has, to her friends those pictures would prove it all. Her name, as well, had been replaced by something just shy of being beyond the capability of their mouths. When Mama asked what happened to Dee, she explained “She’s dead, I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (170). She’s actualized her dream, she’s severed the ties to her domestic roots to follow passions that lead far away from the pasture

I like pohnpei397's reply. The daughter who returns home in Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use," and the man she brings with her, indeed respresent a newly forged cultural identity for African Americans that is very much at odd with the conventional identities, as reflected in both the mother and the stay-at-home daughter.

A second (and related) possible thesis for this story focuses on the idea of "reader response": every reader will read the story...

I like pohnpei397's reply. The daughter who returns home in Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use," and the man she brings with her, indeed respresent a newly forged cultural identity for African Americans that is very much at odd with the conventional identities, as reflected in both the mother and the stay-at-home daughter.

A second (and related) possible thesis for this story focuses on the idea of "reader response": every reader will read the story in a slightly different way because of that reader's individual background, values, political commitments, and so on. The story does prompt us, of course, to identify more closely with some of the characters than with the others; for example, the mother is the narrator in the story, which makes most readers initially identify more closely with her than with any of the other characters. Some readers will follow these prompts while other readers -- who are sometimes called "resistant readers" -- will not.

"Everyday Use," then, can be seen as a story that will probably be read very differently by different readers. While I teach in Mississippi, for example, I am not from that state, and I have great respect for the artists and thinkers of the Black Arts Era, including Alice Walker, who sought to make breaks with the past and to challenge, among other things, white standards of beauty and ideas of history. I also believe in the value of leaving home for extended periods, growing to be a highly independent person, and returning home a changed person who is then able to sift through the past and choose what to keep and what not to keep. Thus, while my Southern, very family-centered, and very place-bound students almost invariably identify with the position of Maggie and her mother (and often share, for example, in the mother's mockery of the Africa- and Islam-inspired names that the two visitors have adopted), I find the two visitors much more interesting and inspiring. I would even go so far as to say that the author Alice Walker is much more like Dee than she is like Maggie.

In the end, for me, the point is not that one reader is right and the other is wrong. Rather, the point is that we, as different readers, can react differently to the same prompts in the story and end up with very different readings of the same text. The particular readings that we end up with, in fact, often say as much about who we are as readers as they say about the text that we have been reading.