Everyday Use

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Everyday Use Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alice Walker's Everyday Use. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Alice Walker

Alice Walker was born as the youngest of eight children, in Eatonon, Georgia, where her parents worked as sharecroppers. As a child, Walker suffered from an eye injury after a BB gun accident that left her blind in one eye. Walker’s enrolled in Spelman College in 1961 and later transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, where she graduated in 1965. Walker published her most well known work, The Color Purple, in 1982, receiving the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for the novel. Walker is an advocate for gender and racial equality. She has written over 30 novels, non-fiction books, and collections of short stories and poetry.
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Historical Context of Everyday Use

Walker published In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and in the thick of the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s. She participated actively in both, organizing and protesting alongside activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gloria Steinem. Walker coined the term “womanism” to refer to a kind of feminism that specifically addresses the struggles of African-American women. Her writing reflects the tenants of the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, and her work itself was a kind of activism, as she helped create space for women of color in the arts.

Other Books Related to Everyday Use

“Everyday Use” was written during a time when the literary canon was quickly expanding to accept many writers previously shut out from it—in particular writers of color and women writers. Walker’s larger body of work, including her Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Color Purple and the rest of the collection Love and Trouble (in which “Everyday Use” was published), reflect a commitment to telling the stories of women of color. Walker’s major influences include many of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, an African-American art movement in the 1920s and 1930s, such as novelist Nella Larsen and author Jean Toomer. Walker’s largest influence, however, is Harlem Renaissance novelist Zora Neale Hurston, whose work she helped bring to national attention.
Key Facts about Everyday Use
  • Full Title: Everyday Use
  • When Published: 1973, as a part of the collection In Love and Trouble
  • Literary Period: Contemporary African American Literature
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: the Deep South
  • Climax: The argument over family quilts
  • Antagonist: Dee, partly
  • Point of View: First person narrative from Mama’s perspective

Extra Credit for Everyday Use

Zora Neale Hurston. Alice Walker is credited with renewing literary interest in Zora Neale Hurston, one of her major influences. Walker was responsible for placing a headstone on Hurston’s previously unmarked grave. It reads: “A Genius of the South.”

Color Purple on the Silver Screen. Alice Walker’s epistolary novel The Color Purple was made into a 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg, as well as a Broadway musical.