Everyday Use by Alice Walker takes into account a central conflict between two women. This conflict is symbolized by two main characters; Mrs. Johnson and Dee. Both have certain characteristics are similar but mostly Alice juxtaposes these characters with each other to bring out the main theme of the play. Dee is an epitome of shallow materialism and an adherent of prevailing concept of heritage where heritage is revered only for trendiness and aesthetic attraction whereas Mrs. Johnson admires heritage for its practical utility and personal importance.
Both Mrs. Johnson and Dee are from the same socio-cultural backgrounds but both are brought up in different cultural milieu. Both admire heritage but their motives are different. Mrs Johnson is ‘In real life I am a large, big- boned woman with rough, man-working hands’ (273) whereas Dee is soft-skinned and of delicate nature. Piedmont-Mortob is of the view that central conflict is between Maggie and Dee and “is about whether heritage exists in things or in spirit, or process.
” Dee’s longing for heritage is for ostentatious reasons.
For example she says, “I can use the chute top as a centerpiece for the alcove table…and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher”. (277) Contemporary periodical necessities make her cherish and celebrate her Afro-American heritage. “Dee views her heritage as an artifact which she can possess and appreciate from a distance instead of as a process in which she is always intimately involved. ” (Piedmont-Marton) But Mrs. Johnson and Maggie have learnt to live with their heritage.
Dee is captivated by the beauty of “churn top” and wanted to have it to be used as centerpiece for her alcove table whereas Mrs. Johnson has used it practically for churn butter hitherto. Walker utilizes the butter churn to demonstrate Mrs. Johnson’s intrinsic understanding of heritage. When [Dee] finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my hands. You didn’t even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood.
In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was a beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived. (277) About quilts Dee says: “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts… She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (278) that shows her shallow reason to love her heritage. Mrs. Johnson says, “I am the way my daughter would want me to be”. (273) This is manifestation of her adoption to the changing circumstances.
Same is the case with Dee as her pretensions about her culture are directly related to the changing social environment where heritage is celebrated and is not understood. The development of Dee into Wangero shows various facets and phases through which black identity passed during late 1960s and 1970s. Predilection for appearance as compared with spirit remained hallmark of this era and this trend is manifested through Dee’s transformation into Wangero. “Dee’s new name, her costume, and her new boyfriend (or husband) are all indicative of her frivolous attitude toward her newly adopted African culture. ” (White)
Above-mentioned arguments and supported evidence show that there exist similarities as well difference between the character of Mrs. Johnson and Dee. They love the same thing for different reason.
Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. “An Overview of ‘Everyday Use. ‘” Short Stories for Students. Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Thomson Gale. Valencia Community College East Campus Lib. , Orlando. 18 Jan. 2002 <https://www. linccweb. org/eresources. asp>. White, David. “’Everyday Use’: Defining African-American Heritage. ” 2001. Anniina’s Alice Walker Page. 19 Sept. 2002. Walker, Alice.
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