In the short story, “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, we are introduced to two distinctly different views of the African-American culture. The story depicts the 1960ish life of Mama and her two daughters, Maggie and Dee. As we are introduced to this family, it is apparent immediately that Mama and Dee see their heritage as African-American women in two starkly differing ways. It is also apparent that neither Mama nor Dee appreciates the views or the societal stations of the other. Contrasting one against the other, we come to a very real conclusion; at the heart of their disdain for one another, is pride. In Mama, we experience the pride of self-sufficiency, of survival, and of her ancestry. In Dee, we witness the pride of elevation and of education. Dee also takes great pride in displaying her heritage rather than embracing it.
Mama is a simple woman living a simple life. Simple does not mean easy. Although there is only a brief mention of the girls’ daddy, the impression is that Mama raised her children alone. She describes herself as a “…large big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.” (Walker, 1126) As she goes on to describe the pleasure she takes in milking cows or slaughtering a pig for dinner, we are exhausted to think about the long hours she must put in from sun-up until sun-down to single-handedly support and care for her family.
Although Mama lived a meager life, it is apparent that she wanted more for her daughter’s future. She, with the help of her church family, raised enough money to send Dee away to Augusta to complete school. In contrast, she remarks that she only ever finished 2nd grade. She does not emanate regret, only fact. She recounts, “…the school closed down after 2nd grade. Don’t ask me why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now.” (Walker, 1127)
Mama has little use for extravagant things. She has a deep love and appreciation for her yard, the peaceful, extended living room she...