Essay: The Search for Identity in the Book Everyday Use

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George Washington University
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Identity and its relationship within the circles of daily life were the central themes that Walker discussed at length in the book Everyday Use. According to Walker, the individual and the relationship between him/her and the culture present a matter of great importance (Whitsitt, 443). Dee ironically has chosen to change her name for ease of connecting with African roots, as opposed to her mother who sees herself hanging within the periphery of her immediate family traditions (Burkhardt, 201). The gesture of changing her name depicts Dee as lacking the understanding of her identity as well as heritage while it is a show of the real search for the identity. Dee never accepted her current space in life that throughout her life, she becomes the poor Africa-American girl living in the Georgia. Always, she had an illusion, awareness that she was light skinned other than the black girl, and thus her projection to life concerning socio-cultural expectation ought to be high.

At school, Dee rejects her old quilts. The action portrays her as distancing herself from the kind of upbringing. In the college, she finds an African friend, and she legitimizes her identity when the opportune time presents itself (Burkhardt, 204). Later, Dee adopts Ugandan name and now known as Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo; she mimics the dressing style as well as the life style of the friend in the way of expressing solidarity with her African friend. Tactically, the gesture was meant to denounce and reject oppression that was an implication of taking an American name by black slaves (Burkhardt, 206). It is evident that her actions and the new take on identity are in sharp contrast to Mamas beliefs and sense of identity dubbed as rooted much more in her history and ancestry. In the real context of heritage, Dee seeks approval to bettering herself when she begins to embrace her roots but subjugate Mama and Maggie when she suggested that the two does not know the value of their own culture.

The confusion about heritage for Dee also emerges within the search of the contextual identity. She exuberate an attitude towards quilts as well as other house items. In contrast to her immediate action of changing her name and rejecting the ancestral links, she expresses eager in valuing their old handwork items such as curved benches that were used initially when the family could not afford decent furniture (Whitsitt, 446). She finds the things fascinating and provides aesthetic value and being naive; she does not see that these are also symbols of oppression. Her admiration of the items reflects a trend in a culture where there is valuing of the object or rather than who made the thing and thus by extension an insult to heritage.

However, under scrutiny to the story, it is open that Dee is not only the one confused about her identity and heritage of the blacks in the rural south of Georgia. As much as they were too skeptic about Dee, Mama and Maggie seem to recognize the existing limitation within the sphere f their own lives (Whitsitt, 449). It is evident that the mothers have just a second-grade type of education as she admits that she cannot look straight into the eye of a strange white man. Maggie seems to know that Mama is not bright; nonetheless, even though their dispositions make them almost the best in their endeavors, they inwardly admire Dees pride.


Work cited

Burkhardt, Sylvi. The Function of Tradition in "everyday Use" by Alice Walker and "yellow Woman" by Leslie Marmon Silko. Munich: GRIN Verlag GmbH, 2005. Internet resource.

Whitsitt, Sam. "In spite of it all: a reading of Alice Walker's" everyday use." African American Review 34.3 (2000): 443-459.


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