Everyday Use by Alice Walker explores the struggles experienced by African-American women due to racial identity and racism in rural and urban areas. It is told in the first person narration giving details of the problems of the minority race during the slave era in America due to racism. The author uses literary devices such as symbolism, the setting, and narrator’s point of view to highlight the plight of women such as racism in the story both in rural and urban dwelling.
The story’s setting is in the yard of the narrator enabling the reader to familiarize with the place in the rural areas. The narrator knows the place very well and does not waste time assisting the reader in familiarizing with the place which is occupied by African Americans. The description of the place as the story opens invites everyone before nasty things starts happening “A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know… (Walker 1). After the invitation, she starts highlighting issues of traumatic memories, racial bias, unventilated house, and fights over quilts. The economic hardship faced by the people is brought about by the description of the narrator’s house that has no windows but small holes depicting struggles they go through in segregated rural settings.
The story is in the narrator’s point of view bringing out the theme of urban lifestyle in her description of Dee. This helps in connecting the reader to the character in the story by sympathizing with the protagonist who undergoes several challenges since her sister’s character has changed after acquiring education in an urban setting. The reader sees everything in the perspective of the narrator and it may be challenging to choose whether to trust the character to narrate about the rest in the story. For example, when she describes Dee “Dee wanted nice things. …. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts (Walker 12). Dee according to the narrator’s decription ha been alienated and want to behave like the whites high class. Although it brings out her character as aggressive wanting to look her best, later it is clear that Dee has an interest for other peoples’ things to maintain her urban lifestyle. Racism has reduced in the urban areas since Dee has managed to attend school and is much educated.
Walker uses symbolism and imagery to highlight the plight of African-Americans in their segregated rural settings during the era when prejudice was rampant in America. She also sees vision images in which she sees things in other peoples’ perspectives. Quills are a symbol of family heritage, poverty, and creativity of the makers. In addition, they symbolize communal bonding among the rural African-Americans working as slaves as they used straps to build strong bands for sale. Many people worked together in making them and in this case, the narrator, her sister, and mother join hands in creating them strengthening their bond. Creativity is brought about by the craftiness that is applied in making something useful out of used clothing “And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, which was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War (55). This quote shows that the quills were made from old garments and since the slaves could not afford new clothes from the stores, quills were very important. Making quills was a common activity in the rural areas and women joined hands to make quality garments.
In conclusion, Alice Walker’s story is a great piece of literal work since it highlights problems of African-American women in their daily struggles in a manner that captivates the reader. The use of literary devices allows the narrator to tell a story in a manner that captivates every reader in addition to giving a clear picture of racism, in rural and urban centers.
Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. Ed. Barbara T. Christian. Rutgers University Press, 1994.