Everyday Use Essay

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Critical Analysis of Everyday Use “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is about a mother of two diverse daughters and the return visit of the eldest daughter, Dee. This story is told from the first-person point of view of Mrs. Johnson (Mama). In the exposition, Mama describes her children, Maggie and Dee, and the differences between the two. She identifies Dee as the intelligent one who “made it” (Walker 757), and her desire to be reunited in a glamorous way with Dee. Mama describes Maggie as unattractive, having been disfigured by a fire ten or twelve years prior. Mama lives in her ramshackle house with her youngest daughter, Maggie, who has been scarred and disfigured by the fire that burned their last house to the ground. In the beginning of the story, Maggie and Mama have made preparations for Dee’s visit, turning the yard into an “extended living room” (Walker 757). Maggie is nervous about Dee’s visit, concerned with her appearance. She seeks her mother’s approval when she asks, “How do I look, Mama?”, (Walker 758) while hiding partially behind a door. When Dee arrives, both Maggie and Mama are bowled over by the appearance of both Dee and the man accompanying her. Maggie displays disbelief of this strange couple by her audible “Uhnnnh” (Walker 759) at the sight of Dee’s male companion, Dee’s dress, and her choice of hairstyle. Mama translates Maggie’s reactions by describing the sights that caused her reactions; “Hair is all over his head a foot long…”; “…dress so loud it hurts my eyes…I feel my whole face warming from the heat waves it throws out…her sister’s hair…stands straight up like the wool on a sheep…” (Walker 759-60). Dee shouts out the Luganda (Hoel) greeting “Wa-su-zo-Tean-o!” (Walker 760), which Mama clearly doesn’t understand, followed by her companion’s greeting of “Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!” (Walker 760), which Mama mistakenly
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