The Theme of Family in “Everyday Use”

Alice Walker, an African-American born in the south, has had to face many prejudices because of the color of her skin. However, witnessing and living through this mistreatment provided Walker with the foundations for the themes in “Everyday Use”. “Everyday Use” tells a story about a reunion between Dee and her family. Dee has become educated and returned from college to her poor, uneducated family. Education has changed Dee, and now she is desperately trying to reconnect to her heritage to her family’s surprise.

However, this sweet reunion soon turns bitter as the family begins to argue due to differences of beliefs on culture and the future of family heirlooms. Losing her argument, Dee storms out the house and leaves. There are several themes throughout this story; such as, the importance of heritage, exposure, and education. Through symbolism and the characterization of Dee, “Everyday Use” depicts the benefits and the tradeoffs faced when a person from an uneducated community becomes educated.

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The story reveals that education can be positive in several instances. For example, having an education allows one to make their own choices, have money, and opportunities. This is shown through comparing the life of Dee to her mom and Maggie. In “Everyday Use,” Maggie and Mrs. Johnson, Mama, are uneducated. As an effect, they are poor and have almost no options in life. Because of this, they are forced to live in a building that barely qualifies to be a house and are separated from the town: “There are no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside.

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This house is in a pasture, too, like the other one” (Walker 8).

They are literally and metaphorically separated from the rest of society, and they will never be able to escape their own prison as long as they’re uneducated. Because Mama and Maggie have no education, they have become content with their lives. This can be inferred from the actions of Maggie and Mama throughout the story. For example, Mama and Maggie seem to have no issues with their current living conditions; even though it is what most would consider undesirable. Also, Mama and Maggie seem not to know or believe they can do any better. This is shown when Dee states, ‘You ought to try to make something of yourself… It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it’ (Walker 13). However, Dee, being educated, is the exact opposite of her family. She thrives to learn and has a strong will that refuses to change. This allows her to have almost everything she wanted as a child such as: a car, gold jewelry, pretty dresses, and a camera.

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The Theme of Family in “Everyday Use”. (2021, Dec 07). Retrieved from

The Theme of Family in “Everyday Use”

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