Critical Analysis of “Everyday Use”

Critical Analysis of “Everyday Use”

CriticalAnalysis of &quotEveryday Use&quot

Theestablishment of heritage for the African Americans and theperception about the symbols of culture is the main theme by AliceWalker in the short story “Everyday Use.” During slavery times,African-Americans who mostly bore cold injustices of being slaves forwhite people devised a new method of communication within themselvesusing quilts. Basing her story in the context of African Americansafter slavery, Walker uses symbolism and characterization to presenther theme of heritage. The discussion on &quotEveryday Use&quotwill illustrate that Walker uses symbolism to reveal the uniquecultural heritage valued by the African Americans in the eighteenthcentury.

In&quotEveryday Use,&quot Walker presents the significance of quiltsto the American culture. After the end of slavery, the AfricanAmerican culture retained quilts to symbolize their history and.During slavery, the only way that the slaves could communicateamongst themselves was through quilts. Different designs representeddifferent messages to be conveyed. For example, the log cabin designhung outside a house represented a house of refuge for those slavesthat had escaped their masters and were fugitive (Walker 297). Quiltswere also used as maps to help slaves escape at night using the starsas their guide, especially to the slaves.

Walkeruses symbolism to show the heritage and cultural importance thatAfrican Americans placed on some items like the quilts. To Maggie,the quilt represents a woman with her husband and her own home(Walker 307). This is symbolism. Maggie thinks she deserves to havethe quilts when she marries a man by the name John Thomas. Her motherhad promised her and it seems only natural that a mother should offerquilts to her daughter when she gets married. She had made her motherpromise to give her those quilts when she marries John Thomas (Walker302). From this context, it is fair to state that culturally, womengave quilts as presents to their daughters upon marriage. That is thereason that Big Dee, Maggie’s grandmother had left the quilts withher mother.

Hermother symbolically places quilts as cultural items. She believesthat they are used by her people for long periods and so, they shouldcontinue being used. Dee on the other hand, places great value on thequilts. In fact, she says they are priceless (Walker 250). She triesto make her mother and sister see the importance of those quilts butshe fails miserably. To her, those quilts represent her heritage thatshe seems so proud of, of the African-Americans (Walker 303). Maggiegave the quilts to her sister because she envied her sister to anextent that she thought that her sister was more privileged. Shecould not imagine denying her sister the quilts, sister who seemed tohave everything in her favor. She never had any self esteem thatassured her that she deserved anything good in this world. She gavethem easily as she knew she could quilt herself. Her grandmother hadtaught her how to quilt (Walker 298).

Anotheraspect that Walker uses in the short stories is characterization. Sheuses the name Wangero to present some significance to Dee (Walker300). Dee believes the name represent’s her heritage and herfreedom. She wanted to have a name that had a cultural meaning andthat uniquely identifies her roots. She says she did not want to bearanymore being named ‘Dee’ after her oppressors (Walker 300). Shebelieved that name belonged to a culture that was outside her own andthat culture had oppressed her people. On the other hand, her motherand sister thought that was a strange name (Walker 300). They hadnever heard it before and her mother had even asked how it waspronounced.

Walkerfurther uses characterization to present the aspects of break fromoriginal heritage and the construction of a new heritage. Dee’spersonality is of an educated, sophisticated and outgoing individualwho seems to have interacted with diverse cultures to appreciate herown. That is the reason she comes back to her home with an Arab(Walker 299). Everything seems to be important to her. She borrowsfrom her mother the dasher and quilts that she hopes to keep as aheritage (Walker 302). When she says to Maggie that it is a new dayfor them, she means that an era was over and they were beginning anew life. So she hopes to keep those items as remembrances of herheritage and have a sense of identity (Walker 303).

Theassessment of Dee about her sister and mother also offers someaspects of characterization. Dee’s assessment of her sister asbackward shows how she broke away from original heritage (Walker302). This illustrates how Dee has constructed a new heritage througheducation. On the other hand, Maggie was not educated enough norlearned enough. Her mother and sister seem to have a comfortable oldhabit of the racial segregation that was happening around them. Infact, they seemed to have resigned to oppression. That is why Deesuggests that Maggie should do something for herself since it was anew era.

Theshort story brings out the aspects of African American heritagethrough the use of symbolism to present their culture in the contextof slavery. The quilts were used on an everyday basis by theAfrican-American and so were they, by their masters. The author usescharacterization to bring out the everyday use of items that are ofgreat value to the African American heritage. The author uses thesymbols and characters to create an appreciation of the everyday useof certain important things that communicated the heritage of theAfrican Americans.


Walker,Alice. ‘EverydayUse.’New York: Longman 1973. Print