Importance of Family in Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Alice Walker is a womanists African American who is a native of Eatonton, Georgia. The author of “Everyday Use” wrote the story to show the dealings of “history, heritage, and value in a changing world for African Americans in the mid-twentieth century” (317). This time period was still hard for people of color and opportunities were difficult to get. This short story shows that family is important and when you get older you appreciate more and where you come from is just as important especially your culture.

Furthermore you realize that when you are older you want to travel back to where you have been to see how far you have come which is depicted in this short story by the characters. “Everyday Use” depicts the concept of family, cultural legacy, and the idea of knowing who you are.

Family is an important aspect in “Everyday Use” which is depicted by the relationship with Dee and her family. Dee is the eldest daughter of Mama, and in the beginning Dee does not respect or want to be a part of her family as for her sister Maggie the younger of the two.

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Maggie chose to stay and help Mama while learning how to quilt. “I used to think she hated Maggie, too. But that was before we raised the money, the church and me, to send her to Augusta to school” (319). This shows how much Dee’s family cared about her. But once she grows up and moves away she starts to realize she wants to be a part of the family that she left behind.

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In the story culture is very important especially with Mama. She is very proud of her heritage and culture which is also shown in Maggie. “I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas. “[…]” Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! “[…]” she’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (323). The quilt that was created from pieces of their Grandmas dresses she used to wear. It is an important piece that represents the family’s culture and Mama is very keen on giving it to Maggie instead of Dee because she knows that Maggie will appreciate it more. Dee is the person in the family who does not care a lot about culture, but when it can help her she uses it for her benefit.

Remembering where you have been and how far you have come is represented in Dee. In the beginning she wishes for nothing more but to leave her home and go somewhere else and in the end she comes back to North Carolina and reminisces about the past. The quote “Well,” I say. “Dee”. “No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee, ‘Wanngero Leewanika Kemanjo!’ shows that Dee is where she wanted to be in life and that is why she changed her name to suit her new lifestyle (321). Furthermore, she only wanted those specific quilts because it would have helped gained popularity with her friends she has in her new life.

This story has many aspects that are shown through the many characters such as the importance of family, culture, and the idea of knowing who you are. Through all the characters the importance of family was shown through Mama and Maggie. Culture was depicted through Mama and Maggie. As for knowing where you have been too admiring how far you have come was depicted by Dee. In my opinion these qualities shown in the characters are what signifies the main idea of the story the author was trying to portray.

Works Cited

  • Walker, Alice. Schilb, John, and John Clifford. Arguing about Literature: a Guide and Reader. 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.

Cite this page

Importance of Family in Everyday Use by Alice Walker. (2021, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Importance of Family in Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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