An Analysis of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker and “Dead Men's Path” by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe and Alice Walker: Quiescent heroes of Black Literature

An analysis of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker and “Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian writer whose role as a socially committed storyteller is drawn from his ethnic Igbo traditions. As a central focus for most of his novels, short stories and poems, Achebe draws on the cultural traditions with which he was raised to highlight the importance of African, and in particular, Nigerian culture. The difficulties faced by Nigerian ethnic groups, pertaining to post-colonial reconstruction of Nigerian communities, are often the foundational underlying theme upon which Achebe bases most of his work. “Dead Men’s Path”, a short story, highlights the conflicts between traditional Nigerian culture and beliefs and the modern, westernised ideology, wrought by European colonialism. In an autobiographical comment published in Contemporary Novelists in 1989, Achebe referred to his works as being a response to the particular demands of three major periods in recent African history: the colonial years, into which Achebe was born; the years of nationalist protest, when Achebe grew up; and the succeeding years of resumed independence as modern Africa. Achebe presents the attitudes and challenges faced within all three of these epochs in “Dead Men’s Path”, primarily through the characters of Michael Obi and a village priest.

Alice Walker’s background, however, is far more complicated; this is evident in her work as many of the themes and messages that she seeks to explore and convey are complex and varied. Notwithstanding this, “Everyday use” has very clear and defined themes, which have palpable connotations that derive from Walker’s own life experiences. Walker grew up in Georgia in the United States; as such her works focus upon and are influenced by African-American people and in particular African-American women. Born in 1944, Walker grew up in the midst of violent racism and...