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SYMBOLISM IN “EVERYDAY USE” BY ALICE WALKER

Walker wrote the tale "Everyday Use," which centers on the concept of individualism. It is based on the lives of two women, Maggie and Dee. While they grew up in the same house under the care of their mother, Mama, they formed distinct identities and held opposing opinions on their history, present, and future. Symbolism has been used to demonstrate these variations in the yard and quilts.
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is a story about women from various generations, specifically Mama and her daughters, Maggie and Dee, as represented by the Quilts ( Harris and Trudier 32). It is worth noting that both women have unique enduring legacies. Although the women in the story have strong generational connections, when Dee arrives home it comes out clear that the links are weak and therefore can be broken down (Walker and Christian 71). It is shown by some of the younger generation women such as Dee who do not understand their history. For example, Aunt Dicie and Mama who are old quilts makers relate cordially as compared to that of the sisters, Maggie and Dee, who cannot make a single conversation (Harris and Trudier 29). Additionally, Dee cannot understand the legacy that her name holds which has gone through a wide range of generations, and therefore, she is not able to get into terms with the importance attached to the quilts (Walker and Christian 58). We later learn that the quilts contain bundles of clothes which were worn many centuries ago by their ancestors.

Moreover, the quilts are small parts of living history or documentation of history in the form of fabric that signifies how the lives of past generations were. For example, they remind the current generation of the challenges that the former cohort endured such as poverty and war (Harris and Trudier 45). So to speak, the quilts are a testament to the pride and struggle that the family of Mama has possessed for decades (Walker and Christian 113). It is crystal clear that Mama was denied a chance to receive education partly due to the chains of poverty that tied her life, meaning that she values her personal history than anything else (Walker and Christian 92). In the short story, it is clear that the house of Mama contains many handicrafts which she received from the members of her extended family. Furthermore, Mama did not get an inheritance regarding money but the quilts that she treasures. According to Mama, the quilts have a value that Dee does not seem to understand despite confessing that she will preserve them, and later fails to deliver on her promise.

Therefore in the story, quilts are employed to paint a picture of the African American past, and as such, they serve as a symbol of, the ties of heritage and unique culture in which Mama was brought up. Quilting is part and parcel of the American black population’s culture which has passed down from one generation to another. Notably, as the story develops we realize that there are many patterns of the quilts that Mama and Dee do not seem to agree on, for example, the makers of the quilts have used different types of designs to show their unique attributes as compared to other treasures. In each of them, there are at least a couple of dresses that Granny Dee used to wear about fifteen decades have elapsed (Walker and Christian 106). Additionally, there are pieces of the Grandpa Jarrell's Paisley shirts, as well as, a bit of Great Grandpa’s uniform which he used to put on during the Civil War (Walker and Christian 61). It is an undisputable fact that the materials used to make the quilts are no longer available in the market, meaning that their value is unreproducible by the popular manufacturers.

Symbolism is portrayed in the book by the use of the yard which belongs to Mama. Here it represents the private and unrestricted life that Mama enjoys at the expense of the regrets and challenges she has been through. Surprisingly enough, the yard appears in the first and the last sentences of the story to connect the events that unfold. It is worth noting that the yard has been prepared for the forthcoming of Dee. Mama is overly concerned with the general outlook of the yard, putting more emphasis on the wavy patterns that they make in the dirt as they were trying to make it look appealing to the eyes (Walker and Christian 43).

Mama humorously praises the specifications of the yard and the luxurious parts associated with it which she compares with a living room of an extended rich family (Walker Christian 77). Here, the outside of the house represents freedom from many sufferings. On the other hand, inside of the house denotes restraint and some level of discomfort. The heated debate on who will possess the quilts take place in the house where varied articles arouse Dee to remember about her past. However, the yard is an easy escape where Mama can spend her time without having any regrets in mind. So to speak, for her and Maggie, the yard stimulates a sense of safety where they can exercise some bit of control over the environment.

All in all, the book “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker has employed symbolism from the beginning of the story to the very end. The quilts are used to show the African American cultural heritage. Moreover, they are employed to denote the differences in the characters such Mama and Dee who view the quilts from a different angle. The yard has also been used to show how Mama enjoys freedom from the chains of regrets. They symbolize how freedom is treasured by many people in the society.

Works Cited

"Epiphanic Awakenings In Raymond Carver’S Cathedral And Alice Walker’S Everyday Use." Advances in Language and Literary Studies 7.3 (2016): n. pag. Web.

HARRIS, TRUDIER. "Alice Walker's "Roselily": Meditations on Culture, Politics, and Chains." Southern Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 2, Winter2017, pp. 28-48. EBSCOhost, 165.193.178.96/login?url=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3daph%26AN%3d123557077%26site%3deds-live

Walker, Alice, and Barbara Christian. Everyday Use. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1994. Print.

September 01, 2021

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