Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”
In the short story “Everyday Use” Alice Walker depicts the importance of African-American heritage. Through the use of the setting, plot, characters, style and atmosphere, this piece of literature shines a theme that mirrors black culture in the United States. Shallow reading would uncover Alice Walker’s story to be that of a mother who discards the superficial values of one daughter, for the everyday homely values of her other ill-fated daughter, however, underneath lays much more substance than the common reader would comprehend. In order to fully understand the concept of this story one must read further in depth and establish meaning to not only the plot, but each character, along with other elements as well. Each element carries an important aspect to the central theme behind “Everyday Use”, without them the personality and inspiration for Alice Walker’s ideal is lost.
As many know, a setting is something that enables the reader to establish the time and place that an event takes place. It allows the reader to envision and understand the context of the story that much better along with aiding in encouraging a reaction and mood out of the reader. It is safe to say that “Everyday Use” takes place in the 1960’s because Ms. Johnson details not only her submissiveness but also her daughter Maggie’s submissiveness to the white man. Mama (Ms. Johnson) lets us know her comfort level with white men when she reflects on page 402, “ Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye? It seems to me I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight, with my head turned in whichever way is farthest from them.” This is anything but irrelevant due to the younger generation pushing the “Black Pride” movement at this point in time. Mama represents the older generation of those who were tangled in the segregation during the early 1900’s, whereas Dee her older daughter represents the younger generation of...