Alice Walker's Everyday Use Alice Walker's Everyday Use Essay, Research Paper What s Your Background? Alice Walker s life as an African-American novelist and poet has led to many award winning short-stories and books. She was raised in the southern state of Georgia and her parents were sharecroppers. This taught her that being an African-American can have its rough times. After being shot by a BB gun when she was eight, Alice remained blinded in one eye. Her ailment caused her to seclude herself from other children her age. Alice s feeling of being older than she was shows in her writing of the short story Everyday Use.
One of the story s main character s, Maggie, is a direct relation to the beginning of Alice Walker s life. Maggie, though we don t know her exact age, appears to be a young woman. The story tells of her past as though Alice Walker was telling a slightly altered version of her own life up to that point. Maggie was burned in a fire that was, though never proven, thought to be set by an older sibling. After the fire, Maggie walked chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ashamed of her looks (Perrine 91). In relation, Alice s older sibling shot her in the eye.
This blinded her and made her feel like she was unpleasant to look at. She secluded herself and felt ashamed. These events led to the other, non-social activities. Alice Walker, after being blinded by the BB gun, turns to reading stories and writing poetry. Many of her writings are related to her life as a young black woman.
In Everyday Use, Alice uses the character of Maggie to express her own internal struggles. Maggie is taught by her grandmother to make quilts, and quilts are made to put to everyday use. The opposing character in the story, Dee, only asks for the quilts to hang them and display them as a piece of her heritage. Alice shows both girls opinions to prove that either of the girls could be right. Dee could try to preserve her heritage, if she actually cared about it, by hanging the quilts. However, Maggie has been raised to know that she can use the quilts and still preserve and continue her heritage by repairing the quilts with new scraps, which have their own meaning.
Alice wanted to show the relation between African-American people who actually know and live their heritage, as opposed to just pretending for trend s sake. Dee s character in the story is a direct relation to the number of people in modern society that does not know their true heritage. Alice uses Dee to show the ignorance of the trendy people pretending to be into their culture and where they come from, but haven t bothered to take the time to research African heritage. Dee is following a fashion of celebrating the distant African roots and quickly gives up her real name for one that is not even related to her heritage.
After explaining her new name, she tells her mother, I could not bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me (Perrine 93). In reaction, Dee s mother casually explains a little of where her name came from, but it truly seems to be Alice s reaction towards the ignorant people who do not take time to research their given name before trading it for a new one. In a world where many African Americans say they are in touch with their heritage and claim to be a part of only the popular tribes in African history, majority of them do not have any idea about where they came from. Alice Walker s, Everyday Use shows the bitterness Alice has for the great number of black people, and any other race, who just joins on the bandwagon because it sounds good and will probably get them some kind of benefit. Only those people who take the time to research their actual roots, are the ones who, in my opinion, can claim any positive connection to their heritage. Those that are only guessing, or someone who has heard it from a family member and taken it for truth, do not have the proof required to be considered a part of that background.
Alice s characters, Maggie and Dee, used in the short story show many different aspects of an African American s culture that is overly exaggerated or foolish, and the true quilt making, southern culture some have come to celebrate in America. Alice also relates the story to bits and pieces of her life growing up and how her culture and surroundings affected her. She is one of the many Americans who understands her culture and background and uses this to write numerous wonderful literary works.