"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker.

Essay by karenstolpCollege, Undergraduate August 2003

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Like many stories, Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" contains opening and closing segments which are in sharp contrast to each other. The different styles in which the first and last portions of the story represent the significant changes experienced by Maggie and her mother. These changes, brought on by a brief visit from Maggie's older, and more worldly sister, Dee.

The opening scene in "Everyday Use" presents a vivid picture of Maggie and her mother's yard. It also shows the extreme fondness the two rural women have for the yard. Maggie's mother uses the word "comfortable"(88) to describe the yard and likens it to a living room. Also described in great detail is Maggie's demeanor. She is depicted as "nervous", "homely" and "ashamed"(88). Great weight is place on her burn scars, which run down her arms and legs. The mother, also the narrator, sees herself as being more masculine than feminine.

She thinks of herself as being tough and impervious to inclement weather. However, admits that she could not look a "...strange white man in the eye"(89). It is clear, that both the mother and Maggie are acutely aware that they are far different than Dee. The women seem intimidated and even envious of Dee's ambitions.

In the following paragraphs, Dee arrives with a man, whom her mother believes may be her husband. Dee greets her sister and mother with an African salutation. It is here, that the differences between the three women begin to emerge. The mere fact that so little of the dialog that occurs involves Maggie, suggests how quiet and reserved she is. The mother comes off as passive and submissive, especially toward Dee. She often gives in to Dee's requests without hesitation. For example, she agrees to address Dee...