Everyday Use Essay

Everyday Use Term paper

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Everyday Use "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker is a short story about how people get caught up in the superficial value of material things, and the jealousy this desire causes. In this short story Dee, the eldest daughter, was always ashamed by the way she lived during her childhood years. As she was educated more and more, her feelings of hatred for poverty and ignorance grew intensely. After she finished college her abhorrent feelings grew immensely, and she tried to take advantage of those less educated than her. Dee always hated the way she lived when she was being raised by her mother. Dee was obviously overjoyed when the house that she hated so much, was finally destroyed. "A look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red-hot brick chimney. Why don't you do a dance around the ashes? I'd wanted to ask her. She hated the house that much." The destruction of this symbol of poverty gave her a spark of hope that she and her family would move up in the world, that eventually snowballed into a much larger hatred. She was always ashamed of her past and did everything in her power to improve her status. Even when she was sixteen years old, her mother recalls the urge Dee had to improve everything she could. Her mother said, "Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school ;black pumps to match a green suit she'd made form an old suit somebody gave me." Even though she knew her family couldn't afford "nice things" she had a burning desire for them. This desire made her take the time and effort to alter a suit her mother was given, into a nicer green suit. Even while Dee was still enrolled in high school, she was trying to help make her mother and sister more educated. She would read to them relentlessly in a futile attempt to "improve" them. "She used to read to us without pity ;forcing words, lies, other folks' habits...[while we sat] trapped and ignorant under her voice." She would riddle her mother and sister with knowledge they didn't seem to understand or care about. "[She] burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn't necessarily need to know." Dee was constantly struggling to change their intellectual levels in hopes of forcing them to make more of themselves. Dee believes that her mother could be doing better financially. Dee's mother recalls Dee writing: "...no matter where we choose' to live, [Dee] will manage to see us." When Dee wrote this to her mother, she was basically telling her mother that she was lazy and could do more with her life if she tried. She said that her mother "chose" to live in poverty. Dee was continuously being crushed by her poverty-ridden past ;jealousy of the more wealthy was always in her mind. Her mother recalls, "When she was courting Jimmy T she didn't have much time to pay to us, but turned all her faultfinding power on him. He flew to marry a cheap gal from a family of ignorant flashy people. She hardly had time to recompose herself." She obviously spent a lot of effort and time trying to get Jimmy T to like her, but her time and effort were wasted when Jimmy decided to run off and marry a rich girl. This incident severally shook Dee up. This also gave her a big push to become successful in life. Jimmy T gave her a false image, that stayed with her throughout the story, that the rich get everything they want, even desired people. Dee always wanted the best things. When she comes to visit her mother, she was dressed in not what was comfortable, but an expensive and flashy outfit. "A dress down to the ground in this hot weather. A dress so loud that it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun... Earrings, too, gold and hanging down to her shoulders. Bracelets dangling and making noise..." She obviously isn't dressing for comfort. She wears what will draw attention to her, and show off her new found wealth. The brightly colored dress, long gold earrings, and clanking bracelets all forced eyes upon her. They are all blatant status symbols. She also runs back to her car after greeting her mother and sister to get her new Polaroid camera ;she takes pictures of how her mother and sister are currently living in a run down shack with cows roaming the yard. Dee was always ashamed of they way she lived in her past, but now that she was starting to disassociate herself from the family she started to look around the house for souvenirs of her impoverished past. When she goes inside and begins to eat, her eyes start to roam about and search for valuables. Her eye is caught by the churn. "This churn top is what I need, [Dee] said. Didn't uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have?" She didn't really admire the craftsmanship and beauty of the handmade churn, she was only interested in it because it was extremely valuable. She also took the dasher, for it too was handmade and valuable. Dee also found two quilts that she liked. These too were handmade by her grandmother. She wasn't at all interested in the artistic beauty of these items, instead she was caught up in the money value of them. Then, her mother told Dee that she wasn't able to have the quilts because she had promised them to Maggie. Dee was enraged and said, "Maggie can't appreciate these quilts! She'd probably be backwards enough to put them to everyday use." This statement clearly displays that Dee doesn't appreciate the usefulness of the objects, but only sees their value in dollar amounts. Later Dee goes on to say, "But they're priceless." When Dee says "priceless" she is solely concerned with market value of the quilts ;she doesn't even think about the emotional pricelessness of these precious handmade quilts that her grandmother made. Dee is still obviously mortified by her meager upbringing. When Dee is leaving, her shame of the way she used to live (the same way here mother and sister still live) is very prevalent. She is also afraid that her sister Maggie, will grow up to live in impoverishment like her mother. As she is leaving Dee says, "You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It's really a new day for us. But form the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it." She is clearly still abashed by the poverty that her mother and sister live in, and that they aren't taking any action to change it. Just before Dee is about to depart, she puts on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and her chin. She was making a last ditch effort to try to make a distinction between her financial class and her mother's. The fact that she hid her entire face behind a pair of dark shades, is symbolic of her trying to put a barrier between herself and her poor past.

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