“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker and “A&P” by John Updike, both exhibit a comparable problem concerning acceptance. Acceptance is a universal idea experienced in everyday life and in many social situations. For instance, when two or more people come together, ideas and opinions can clash and acceptance can become a problem. The situations presented in these stories portray the idea of acceptance while revealing an aspect of the human condition. To begin, in Alice Walker’s story “Everyday Use”, acceptance is a problem between Dee and her mother.
The mother first describes a dream of hers in which she and Dee are reunited on a TV show.
She describes a situation in which Dee would want the mother’s appearance to be different. For example, the mother states: “I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake” (89). Therefore, the mother feels as though Dee does not accept her the way she is.
Another example takes place when Dee demonstrates her dislike for their home. The mother talks about the new house, she declares, “no doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down” (90). Not only does Dee disrespect the way her mother looks, she disregards her way of life and home.
As Dee escapes to college to find a better life, she returns acting and speaking differently. One example would be when she changes her name from Dee to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” (91). When the mother asks why she changed it, Dee states, “‘I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me'” (92).
This statement shows overall rejection of the entire family. Another problem with acceptance occurs between Dee and Maggie. At the beginning of the story the narrator states that “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, [… eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe” (88). This statement can only imply that Maggie feels uncomfortable in Dee’s presence.
As Dee is claiming various objects in the house, she comes across two quilts that belong to Maggie. When the mother tells Dee that she can not have them, Dee exclaims, “‘Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts” and will “[… ] be backward enough to put them to everyday use'” (94). These statements insinuate that Dee does not approve of Maggie and her mother’s idea of how their belongings should be used.
Dee wants the household items to display and for artistic use, while Maggie and the mother make use of the items in their everyday life. After reading John Updike’s short story “A&P”, the problem with acceptance can easily be seen between the girls and the traditional customers. The customers do not accept the girls based on their attire and actions. In response to their bathing suit attire, “[… ] there was no doubt, [it] jiggled them. A few houseslaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct” (16).
The customers are obliviously shocked by the girls’ appearance and could not accept the fact that three girls are in the store, in bathing suits! Also, the girls’ actions while in the store affected the customers’ thoughts about them. They were “[… ] walking against the usual traffic [… ],” which the customers also did not approve of. These traditional customers have a simple, everyday routine that brings very few unaccepted surprises. The minute they see the girls’ walk past, the customers are flabbergasted that the girls would even attempt their brave act of entering their traditional world.
They soon shun them out and strived to continue with their normal shopping routine. Another problem with acceptance became evident between Lengel and the girls. First of all, Lengel does not accept the girls’ because of their attire. He upholds his manager position and Sunday school reputation when he confronts them saying, “‘this isn’t the beach'” (17). This comment embarrasses the girls and makes Queenie blush. In return, the girls do not accept Lengel’s reprimand and respond by talking back to him. For instance, Queenie fights back by saying, “‘we are decent [… ]'” (17).
When the girl’s argue back with Lengel, it shows a lack of respect for him and his position as manager. The last thing Lengel tells the girls is to come in next time with their shoulders covered simply because, “‘it’s our policy'” (17). The narrator adds his opinion by saying, “policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency” (17). From the moment the girls walked into the store, they knew that they are not going to be accepted. But, they continue nevertheless as if their entire mission of going to the grocery store is not to buy anything, but to stir trouble and cause conflict.
The general idea of acceptance is dealt with here in two different situations. Even though these stories are fiction, they both have true to life situations that the reader can relate to. For example, what would a shopper in a grocery store think if three girls leisurely walk down the aisle essentially naked? Or can one imagine a mother-daughter situation involving conflict? Even though these stories have different plots, they both can be linked by unique examples of a common problem concerning acceptance.
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