Notes – Everyday Use (1973), Alice Walker


– Notes and Quotes –


Alice Walker (1944-present), Everyday Use (1973)


The significance of the title reflects the pragmatism of using something because of the need or necessity for the circumstance rather than placing a value and heritage association upon the item to preserve for future generations.

Because Maggie is used to being passed over for things, Maggie accepts her Dee’s judgment, and Maggie is willing to forgo her inheritance of the quilts for some other gift that Dee may apply less value to. By settling, Maggie is perhaps better off than Dee in that she may be less interested in material possessions and more interested in family.

Dee is perhaps embarrassed by her family’s poverty. Everything about the family and the residence seem modest, humble, and impoverished, but the quality of furniture whittled by family members was built to last as can be seen in the posterior impressions in the wooden benches, and in the hand impressions in the handle of the butter churn. As well, the narrator relays Dee’s statement about always coming home to visit, but never intending to bring friends.

To escape the label of poverty, Dee changes her identity to reinvent herself as kind of cosmopolitan city girl, and strangely, the poverty of her past becomes a quaint heritage to be displayed and appreciated by other cosmopolitans. Meanwhile, the narrator and Maggie accept their poverty and history as a way of life, but perhaps the thought of “heritage” is a thought of passing association. In her efforts to stake a claim to her perception of “heritage,” Dee perhaps unknowingly embarrasses herself and insults her family by suggesting the family doesn’t understand their own heritage, and Dee suggests the family adopt her perception of “heritage.”

The narrator loves Dee as a daughter, but the narrator seems to tolerate Dee as a young adult. The narrator is perhaps pestered by Dee’s constant judgments and company. The narrator begins telling the story of her family and home, but when Dee interrupts in a bit of a surprise spectacle, the narrator almost can’t believe she and her story are being “upstaged” by Dee.

On the perception of “heritage,” the author perhaps sides with the narrator’s understanding of family history and heritage, and Dee’s perceptions are being presented as a contrast and comparison of the ways youth may view family traditions.



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