Compare "Everyday use" to "The welcome table"

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Anyone who has read Alice Walker's biography can admire the depth and passion with which her stories are told. Beginning with a troubled relationship with her father and admiration for her mother's efforts in raising the family, it is apparent that she addresses her concerns through stories drawn from deep inside her own memories and an awareness of African-American issues. The majority of her stories revolve around the challenges of African-American women in preserving their history and identity. This current short paper will seek to use two of her stories, Everday Use, and The Welcome Table to show the similarity in the manner she chooses her main characters and setting to bring out the issues of African-American culture and identity.

There is an argument for Everyday Use being the most anthologized stories of Alice Walker and in this short narration, the mother-bond and family relationships and how they inform the African-American identity is explored. By applying some humor, the zeal of Dee turned Wangero in trying to reclaim her heritage by applying what she has read about it as opposed to having experienced it firsthand is brought out (Walker 38). Dee is a member of a group called ‘Cultural Nationalism’ led by Amiri Baraka. However, her knowledge of the movement is vague and she is only applying bits of African knowledge as opposed to a detailed comprehension of the tradition. In contrast, her sister Maggie, not educated and bearing burn scars, has inherited true love and teaching of the African culture. The story as narrated by the mother of two opposite sisters gives a contrast of what it is to be truly African and to talk about African tradition and culture from a narrow understanding.

From the onset, it is evident that the two stories make use of similar main characters in developing the stories and giving the themes. In Everyday Use, the narrator of the story is an African-American woman who says about herself, “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands” (Walker 40). The woman has enjoyed her farming life and now puts up in a thin-roofed house with a clay yard. The lady anticipates the marriage of her daughter Maggie and then she will be left alone to live in peace. This description of the lifestyle reflects the true African lifestyle. Her other daughter is expected to arrive with some man, except that she is not sure whether they are just dating or they have married already (Walker 39). This scenario contrasts the expectations of how the African marriages are done, with some procedure, just like Maggie plans to do. The Welcome Table gives a vivid description of an old black lady who is kicked out of the church because of her color. In a talk with Jesus, she describes all the things that she had done for the white man who is still unappreciative (Whitsitt 447). The description using such phrases like “Sunday-to-go-meeting clothes, long withered, and remnants,” paints an image of a deprived black woman that is out to find her identity (Walker 62). The author in both cases uses a deep understanding of the African culture to paint an imagery of both the setting and the characters to best give the representations of the African identity and culture.

In The Welcome Table, the author gives an account of the segregation and its impact on the people. Long after the Black people were freed, segregation still exists even in the holy places of worship. Using an old Black woman to tell the story, the reader is left to encounter how the Black people especially women suffered in the everyday lives (Whitsitt 444). Just like in the Everyday Use, where the mother had to fend for her daughters by using her physical strength, we see here an old African American woman trying to find her identity and express it even in the white-dominated church. She has to go through a reverend who reminds her, “Aunty you know this is not your church” (Walker 62). The theme of discrimination against African Americans is brought out clearly in the two stories. First, the old woman is sat on the first bench from the back as was the custom during the days of slavery and in the Everyday Use, the narrator claims that she did not go to school and requests not to be asked why. She claims, “Don’t ask me why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now” (Walker 41). This evidently showed that most African Americans were not meant to question anything but just take orders because they were second class citizens.

In both stories, the true identity of the Africa-Americans seems to have been achieved. Despite the fact that in the Everyday Use, Dee has a vague knowledge of the African culture, there is an effort to appreciate what it stands for. This is a sign that she is making an effort to understand her identity and appreciate the culture. For instance, she wants to take the heirlooms of the family as a means of claiming her identity and specifically, she wishes to take the quilts. However, she intends to use them just as hangings for decoration purposes because of the fine handwork that went into making them. Maggie, on her part, was promised the quilts for her marriage and she loved them because she reminded her of her grandmother and culture. Dee mocks the speaker and Maggie when she retorts that they can have them “for everyday use.”

In The Welcome Table, the old woman seems to find her true identity and worth when she begins walking with Jesus and speaking with him on the highway. In the conversation, she talks to Jesus about the duration that she had “cooked for them, cleaned for them, and nursed them… how they had tossed her out of his church.” From the smile of Jesus, she felt happy and better that they moved on and passed her house. All along, she suspected they were going to a wonderful place. The story clearly shows the struggles that the African-Americans had to go through before their freedom could be finally secured (Whitsitt 449). The signs had always been there that someday, the rights and culture of the Africans could be realized and at this time, the happiness and joy she expresses when walking with Jesus is indicative of the emancipation and setting free of her people. Just the same way, Warengo leaves her mother and sister with a grin and states that “It’s really a new day for us,” to signify the achievements that have been made by the African-Americans in finding their identity.

Works Cited

Clugston, R. W. "Journey into literature." San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from: https://content. ashford. edu (2010).

Walker, Alice. In Love & Trouble: Stories. Open Road Media, 2011.

Whitsitt, Sam. "In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker's" Everyday Use"." African American Review 34.3 (2000): 443-459.

October 20, 2022
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Literature Sociology

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