Family and Traditions in “Everyday Use” by A. Walker

The relationships between parents and children present one of the most frequently discussed issues. The older generation fails to understand young people and tries to adhere to the traditional way of upbringing. Meanwhile, the younger generation wants freedom of choice and thought. On this basis, there appear misunderstandings between family members. While many authors discuss family issues, Alice Walker goes even further and covers two major dilemmas in her short story. In “Everyday Use,” the author depicts two major problems: the one concerning the relationship between mother and her elder daughter, and the other one related to the daughter’s treatment of her family heritage.

The audience can feel something wrong in the very beginning when the narrator (mother) describes how she and her younger daughter, Maggie, are preparing for the visit of the elder daughter, Dee. It can be noticed from the first few sentences that the narrator feels nearly afraid of meeting Dee. Instead of thinking about a sweet meeting, the woman imagines what it would be like to meet with her daughter in a TV show. The narrator dreams of a brightly decorated room and sees herself much different from what she looks like in reality. Then, eventually, she stops dreaming and realizes that such a situation is never going to happen.

The younger daughter, Maggie, feels even more apprehension before Dee’s arrival. Her mother expects her to hide in the house and not talk to her sister. While in the traditional concept of a family where siblings support each other and have some sweet moments to share, these sisters’ relationships are rather different. The feelings Maggie has to Dee are “a mixture of envy and awe” (Walker 1). What concerns Dee, she treats Maggie, as well as her mother, with some degree of contempt. She used to hate the shabby family house and did not express any pity when it had been destroyed in a fire. When the fire started, the mother was wondering why Dee did not “dance around the ashes” (Walker 2). That fire left many scars on Maggie’s body and soul, which is another reason why the two sisters do not have much understanding of each other’s perceptions of the world.

The second major issue in the story is related to family treasures. For the narrator and Maggie, the quilts mean something very precious in a moral sense. For Dee, they are only something that has material value. She pretends to take care of the family heritage and scolds her mother for not preserving the quilts in good condition. When she is asking for the quilts, she is talking “sweet as a bird” (Walker 5). However, Dee’s interest in them is not sincere. Unlike her family, she is not interested in the value of the traditions but only in fashion.

Finally, there is one more proof of Dee’s disconnection with her family – her change of a name. When she decides that the name given to her by the parents is not fashionable enough in the new circle, Dee alters it to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” (Walker 3). The young woman neglects family traditions and disrespects her mother by rejecting the name that she received at birth. She says that she does not want to be named after somebody, and decides to have a unique name. However, Dee forgets one simple thing – no matter what changes she makes, she cannot become another person. She can only pretend to be another person.

Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a story of pain and misunderstanding, love and disregard, and tangible and intangible values. By picturing the relationships within one family, the author draws attention to the global problem of misunderstanding and undervaluation of family traditions. The relationships between Dee and her mother are an example of how not to treat one’s parents who give their children everything they have and hope for the good future of their offspring.

Work Cited

Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. N.d., Web.

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