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Character Analysis of "Everyday Use"

In: English and Literature

Submitted By hannahmhuie
Words 942
Pages 4
Hannah Huie
Kate Evans
Composition II
05 February 2015

Analysis of Characters in “Everyday Use”
Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use,” illustrates the importance of family and heritage. Many times in the story, Ms. Walker brings up heritage and the importance of recognizing of what it means to belong to something or someone. Her characters each go through change. Mama seems to switch her favoritism from Dee to Maggie and realizes that Dee is not the perfect child she had come to idolize her as being. Dee comes back home to realize that she no longer able to get her way as she used too and that her place in the household has changed. Lastly, Maggie is recognized as having the gift of knowing her heritage and having the ability to add to it by being able to quilt. As we read through the story we see that Ms. Walker paints a wonderful picture of difference between Dee and the family she left behind.
Mama is the voice behind this short story. She narrates and you only see the story through her point of view. As she waits for her daughter Dee to arrive she has a fantasy about her life being on a TV show. She dreams of being a beautiful women, whose hair glistens in the spotlight of the stage, whose witty tongue has the famous TV personality Johnny Carson trying to keep up. As the reader continues they would be able to see that Mama’s true view of herself is not as flattering, she doesn’t mince the truth, and doesn’t have any false illusions about her looks. One sentence in particular stands out when she is describing herself, “My fat keeps me hot in zero winter” (Walker 553). That line alone gives you no false picture of the voice behind it all. Mama’s character constantly demonstrates the hardness of her personality, she does love her children but she doesn’t give them false praise, especially Maggie, the youngest daughter, whom she describes as a lame animal. As the reader goes through the story they are lead to believe that Dee, the eldest daughter, is the favorite daughter. While that may be true with the first part of the story, the reader comes to see a shift in favoritism towards Maggie, which we see that Dee comes to realize.
We are introduced to the character of Dee in the beginning of the story when Mama starts the story with “I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon” (Walker 553). We are given a small picture of the relationship between Dee and Maggie and can see that it is not a close relationship. Rather it is a relationship in which Mama says Maggie is “eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe” (Walker 553). Once Dee arrives to the house, she makes a memorable first impression with the reader. When she gets out of her car and walks towards her Mama and her little sister, she is taking pictures, almost as if she needs these pictures as evidence to show her friends where she came from. As if she needs to show them how much different she is from this forgotten family. When Mama calls her Dee, she immediately corrects her and says she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Dee (Wangero) has converted to Muslim, she has gone back to her roots and is trying to remember her heritage. As we read through the story we can see that she does not quite understand what her heritage is. We can see as we go further into the story that she is not 100% Muslim. As her husband Asalamalakim does not eat pork because it was unclean, Dee (Wangero) has no problem eating the chitlins. Later as she is going through her Mama’s trunk she picks up two quilts and says she wants to keep them and take them with her. This is where we see the shift of favoritism towards Maggie. Mama tells Dee that she was planning on giving those to Maggie and Dee says that Maggie would be “backward enough to put them to everyday use” (Walker 556).
As we examine Maggie’s character, we can see that she is quiet, shy and self-conscious about herself. In the beginning of the story Mama tells us that their first house was burned down and that Maggie sustained some burns from the blaze. Through the story Maggie doesn’t say much, it is as if we are lead to believe that Maggie can’t speak and can’t really express herself. We see that is wrong when it comes to the incident with the two quilts. Maggie’s character is fully brought to light when she offers up those quilts to Dee (Wangero). We see that Maggie is used to not getting her way, not getting the best of anything, as Dee (Wangero) is used too. Mama then points out that Maggie has something Dee (Wangero) does not have. Maggie has the ability to add to her heritage (the quilts). In this instance, Maggie wins.
The three characters in this story by Alice Walker, are well written and well thought out. Mama, Dee and Maggie are different and go through different changes and realizations. Ms. Walker writes this wonderfully and there is a deeper meaning in her characters. The reader just has to take the time to go through and see the deeper meaning.

Work Cited
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature: Craft & Voice. 2nd ed. Ed. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012. 553-557. Print

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