Characterization and Meaning in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker

Alice walker’s works have often been acclaimed by literary critics as pieces of literature that visualize the problems of woman folk.” Everyday use”, published in1973, is considered as a major work of Alice walker, and the author describes the story of the wrangled relation between a mother and her two daughters. This narrative begins with the character Maggie and her mother. The author uses various themes such as heritage, personal insecurity and sibling rivalry and practices intelligent craftsmanship in characterization. Alice Walker’s variety of theme and specific characterization in the short story explores the real meaning of the work and satisfies the Walker’s intentions as a writer.

The themes used in Alice Walker’s Everyday are many and varied. The central subject matter of the story concerns the manner in which Dee recognizes her current life in relation to the civilization of her community and traditions. Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” includes different themes such as tradition and heritage, personal insecurity, and sibling rivalry. The first and foremost one is the clash between views of culture and heritage. This story mainly meets points on the way Dee observes the dissimilarities stuck between her life and the lives of her mother and sister. Here, one can find that two different ideas of how society and heritage ought to be observed have been dealt with and it demonstrates the characters to the Mother and Maggie. The mother is a black farm woman who looks out for Maggie’s elder sister, Dee, who has married a person but her mother is not convinced they are really wedded. Dee always mocks her family’s life. She is very attractive, beautiful and bright. However, the author portrays her as a selfish, multifaceted, and modern woman. She has gone to college and at the present looks roughly like a film star. But the character Maggie is not beautiful and not brilliant and she sustains burn scar from a home fire. Culture and heritage do not provide a hidden intention or an additional rationale. Sibling rivalry is another dominant theme and that can be revealed through the characters of Mama, Dee and Maggie. In the beginning Mama says; “I am the way my daughter would want me to be; a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barely pancake” (Walker). They are in themselves enough causes for responsibility. The character Dee is not ready to recognize why her mother does not provide her the quilt and decides to give it to Maggie as a substitute. Alice Walker points to the accurate meaning of culture and heritage, which are not to be created in the matter. Besides, culture and heritage are not to be found in the peripheral manifestation and replicates by manner and way of life. One can find the theme of personal insecurity play a vital role in the story Everyday Use. Cultural identities of African Americans and their problem of insecurity are revealed in the story.


Alice Walker practices various techniques of characterization such as direct and indirect characterization, presentation of static and dynamic character, flat character and round character. Alice Walkers characters often explore various characteristic features such as dynamism, static nature, round character and both direct and indirect presentation. The story develops through three major characters and the author creates them with enough social, cultural and political background. Each of them has her own personality and the reader can get their philosophical background in their character. Here the author underlines the difference of characterization in literary fiction and commercial fiction. Mama is the one of the important characters of “Everyday Use” and the mother is the survivalist of the short story. She was very poor and she has to work hard to lift up her family members and carefully observe and serve her family. Readers can find that she is an example of round characterization because she is a person having complex traits and severe inner conflicts. She continues her status till the end of the story and remains a static character, wile Dee and Maggie are the exponents of stock characters who possess limited traits.

Alice Walker portrays the character of Dee as a means to express the features direct characterization; character of Dee is an example of direct presentation because it reveals thought the words of the author and narrator. The readers understand the character of Maggie and Thomas through some characteristic traits and symbols. Alice Walker competently probes into and explains the character of Dee Johnson in the short story Everyday Use. One can see that Walker merges the visual rendering of the character Dee. She is one of the complex characters in Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use.” She has an outstanding common sense and fine appearances. The author presents her as somebody who is still harassed with her individuality and inheritance. One can comprehend the nature of Dee through the words of Mama. The old woman comments; “This house is in a pasture, too like the other one. No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down”. (Alice Walker). Others have some prejudiced notions about the character of Dee and that often makes problems. Dee’s bodily attractiveness can be definite as one of her main possessions. So, Alice Walker points out Dee’s bodily attractiveness and compares it to the homeliness of Maggie and her mother.


Alice Walker’s story Everyday Use explores controversial themes such as culture and heritage, sibling rivalry and the problem of personal insecurity. The readers can easily find the literary craftsmanship of Alice Walker in characterization. The author presents round and static character Mrs. Thomson (Mama) which reveals the central theme of cultural heritage and personal insecurity. Other characters have their own dynamic nature and they justify the author’s selection. By analyzing the story, one can comprehend the fact that characterization plays a vital role in literary fictions.

Works Cited

Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. (Provided by customer).

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