Black Identity In Everyday Use By Alice Walker

1238 Words 5 Pages
The Black identity is an elusive ideal. Indeed, the troubles Black people have encountered in the search for the Black identity are dwarfed only by those experienced in their troubled and difficult past. To complicate and confound things further, new concepts and notions of Blackness seem to arise with each generation. Whether rooted in activism, rejection of white ideals, or in the more immediate past, these ideals are, more often than not, troubled and complicated in and of themselves. The core conflict of luminary Black author Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” though superficially a simple family dispute over some household items, is in fact a depiction of this central conflict among the Black community. In “Everyday Use,” Walker not only …show more content…
Like many of her generation, Dee’s mother had little in the way in formal education, and made up for it instead with knowledge of farm-work and other, more practical things. Her relationship with white people, too, clearly defines her difference from Dee. While Dee would look a strange white man in the eye, her mother would talk to them “always with one foot raised in flight, with my head fumed in whichever way is farthest from them.” (Kennedy and Gioia 78) The greatest representation of the generational divide between them, though, lies in the question of everyday use. While Dee would seek to take the quilts, a piece of her family’s living history, to appreciate them up on a wall, her mother would seek to give them to Maggie, Dee’s more traditional sister, who would put them to everyday use. Dee outright proclaims her mother and sister’s intentions to be backwards and perverse, but her mother considers them to be quite natural, saying, “God knows I been saving 'em for long enough with nobody using ‘em.” (Kennedy and Gioia 83) Ultimately, Dee’s mother takes the quilts from her and bestows them unto Maggie. To the mother, and to older generations, family heritage and knowledge is something not to be revered and regarded with distant appreciation, but to be used and appreciated in daily life. Dee’s statement in the end, that her mother and sister do not understand their heritage, is intended to be ironic, for it is instead she who neither understands nor lays claim to the active role provided to her by her ancestors in shaping her heritage through everyday

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