Heritage, and its relationship to daily life, is the central question that Walker explores in “Everyday Use.” Through the eyes of Mama, and through the contrasting characters of Dee and Maggie, Walker offers two varying views of what family history, the past, and “heritage” really mean.
In Dee’s view, heritage is a kind of dead past, distanced from the present through nostalgia and aestheticization (which means reducing something to a symbol or piece…(read full theme analysis)
Through Dee, “Everyday Use” explores how education affects the lives of people who come from uneducated communities, considering the benefits of an education as well as the tradeoffs.
Alice Walker clearly believes that education can be, in certain ways, helpful to individuals. For one, education can empower people financially and therefore materially. Dee’s education rewards her with the “nice things” she has desired since she was a child: gold earrings, a camera, sunglasses. The…(read full theme analysis)
Race structures the social and economic conditions of characters’ daily lives in “Everyday Use.” From the first few paragraphs, Walker makes it clear that the oppression of African-Americans is built into the society of the Deep South, where Mama and Maggie live. This injustice manifests itself in a multitude of ways, ranging from Mama’s inability to look “a strange white man in the eye” to her mentions of racialized violence, like the time when “the…(read full theme analysis)