Everyday Use

            Everyday Use by Alice Walker is a short story about a daughter who returns home to her family, shares a meal with them, and then leaves the very same day. That is what it seems to be on the surface, but there is so much more to it. This short story is bubbling with detailed characters and character development. Alice Walker writes that Dee’s last line of the short story states “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and mama live you’d never know it,” (Walker 9). This line discloses a lot of information of the story. Dee infers that her mother and sister are living a complacent life and never try to change it. She further emphasizes how selfish and superficial she is. And she is actually correct in her judgment.

            In the last page of the short story Everyday Use, Alice Walker writes that Dee says: “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama live it you’d never know it,” (Walker 9). This means that Dee is telling her mother and sister that they are living in an unchanging past and don’t try to change it. Dee infers that her mother and sister aren’t attempting to advance in the world, and are perfectly content living a “prehistoric life,” as described by Susan Farrel in her peer review of Everyday Use entitled Fight vs. Flight: A Re-evaluation of Dee in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”. Dee is living the complete opposite of a life her mother is living, a rapidly changing life. Even at a young age, she easily changed what’s around her based on what’s popular. This is further emphasized when she is shown to barely write to her Mama after she graduates high school and leaves. Being a person who fights for civil rights is what is popular so rather than staying with Mama, she leaves to the city and begins a new life. That is why she doesn’t like the name Dee, it’s a very southern name and Dee would rather change her identity than come from a southern background… Until a southern background suddenly becomes popular. And that is exactly what happened. The only reason Dee returns to visit her family, is to grab things to decorate her new home with. She has a very superficial attitude, and telling her mother and sister that they won’t experience this new day infers that they won’t change who they are based on what’s popular. It’s Dee’s way of telling them that they should be like her, and that they are making a mistake by choosing not to.

            Alice Walker attempts to depict that Dee views herself as a role model to her mother and her sister. She attempts to depict that Dee views herself as a better, more influential person than her mother and her sister. The way Walker attempts this is by phrasing Dee’s last line in the story in a condescending way. Rather than Dee telling them that there is so much going on in the world and they might miss it, she firmly states with a condescending attitude that they don’t even understand everything going on in the world. Dee blatantly judges her family, and does it in a very crude manner. Another example is when Dee first arrives back to her mother’s home. The first thing she does is take photographs. Dee is “intrigued by their rustic realism, snapping photographs as though they are subjects of a documentary, and in doing so effectively cuts herself off from her family,” (SparkNotes Editors 4). Dee doesn’t embrace her roots, she looks down on them, presenting herself to be above them. Since Dee is the only person in the family that has graduated high school and moved out of the farm to create something of herself, she feels credited to judge others for not being able to do what she has done. She feels a sense of entitlement. She is seen acting as if she is better than others from when she was younger, as Walker writes “She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know,” (Walker 2). This influences the idea that Dee likes to hurt others with her success. Dee judges her family because she views them as inferior.

            Dee may be a condescending person who judges people by their intelligence, but she’s smart. When Alice Walker writes that Dee stated “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and mama live you’d never know it,” (Walker 9), she speaks the truth. Despite Dee saying it in a rude way, she spoke the truth. Dee said that the world is passing up her mother and sister because they are not trying to advance in it. Dee’s entire life revolves around change, and that, in turn, makes her successful. Because Dee is not afraid to change, she is not afraid to experience new things. It is too late for her mother to change because she is living the life she was made to live: her mother’s, grandmother’s, and great grandmother’s life. Maggie had a chance to be like Dee and advance in the every changing world, but was never able to take it. When her old house burned down, she was scared, physically and emotionally. The scars tell her to stay with Mama, to stay with what she knows because she is comfortable there, because Mama is there to protect her. Maggie never took the opportunity to be like Dee and move on, she chose to live the life of her mother. In a sense, Dee doesn’t seem to be a child of their family, because she is the only one who is pursuing something new. At the time of the story, fighting for civil rights is very prevalent. This enables Dee to do as she pleases, to live the life she desperately needs, a change filled life. If this were to not be happening yet, Dee would live the life of her mother, without a good education.

            “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and mama live you’d never know it,” (Walker 9). This is the most important line in the story, for it says the most. The line wraps up the entire story perfectly. It states that Dee’s mother and sister’s reluctance to change is a major detriment. It’s written in a condescending way, which backs up Dee’s character analysis perfectly. And is a truthful statement, which summarizes the theme of the story.