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Literal Analysis of Alice Walker’s Everyday Use

Alice Walker’s Everyday Use is an intriguing story about Dee, Maggie, and Mama’s heritage. Walker gives a detailed experience of the family plus their divergent ideas on why they perceive their culture differently. The excerpt from Everyday Use depicts the fight over the grandmother’s quilt and the distinct view of heritage. Dee, who has recently come in touch with her heritage after going away for education, wants the quilt. Dee feels the quilts are precious and should be kept in a museum, while Maggie feels that Quilts and the culture must be for daily use. Dee employs persuasive strategies to convince Mama to give her the quilts; the paper explores these strategies, namely ethos and pathos.

Dee uses persuasion strategies to convince her mother to give her the quilts. She employs ethos. Ethos is a persuasion technique that emphasizes the authority and credibility of the speaker. It emphasizes trustworthiness and competence and invokes the superiority of the speaker. Dee is an educated woman who tries to convince her mother that she understands the importance of quilts more than her sister. Competence shows that one understands the subject matter. Dee states, “No, I don’t want those. They are stitched around the borders by machine.. That’s not the point; these are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all the stitching by hand imagine!” (Walker 3). Dee tries to convince her mother she understands the quilts’ significance and meaning. Dee continues to establish her authority and credibility by belittling her sister and proving her intellect, “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!…. She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use” 4. Here, she attempts to show that she knows the significance of this quilt in a way that stupid Maggie may not. Therefore, she should be allowed to keep them.

Dee also employs a pathos persuasion strategy. Pathos appeals to emotions. It appeals to memory, senses, and shared experience and sometimes invokes fear. It is also known as bandwagon persuasion. Dee informs her mother that the quilts are priceless and should be preserved. This is to appeal to her emotions to prove that she cares for this guilt and understands its meaning. Claiming that Maggie would put them to bed and would be rags is a sign of Dee’s attempt to convince the mother that the quilt will be wasted if she does not get it. “But they’re priceless… Maggie would put them on the bed, and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that” (Walker 4). This is to prove that she is the only one who can safely store these quilts and has its interests at heart. When she cannot convince her mother to give her quilts, Dee gets very angry at her because she wants to have things her way. Dee states, “She can have them, Mama.. I can remember Grandma Dee without the quilts”. This is emotional blackmail. She wants to guilt trip the mother into giving in and handing her the quilts. She also tries to invoke fear in Mama by guilting her into thinking that she will no longer remember Grandma favorably because she does not have the quilts. In Pathos’s persuasive strategy, the speaker instills fear in the audience or people, forcing them to act a certain way. Dee attempted to make Mama fearful that Grandma would not be remembered fondly. Dee thought Mama would feel pity towards her and give her the quilts.

Dee failed to persuade her mother to give her the quilt. Firstly, although she employs ethos to establish her credibility, she never proves her trustworthiness and competence. She never proved to her mother that she understood the importance of the quilts. Instead, she only proved that she wants the quilt as a trophy and not a part of her everyday life as it should be. Mama asked, “What would you do with them?” “Hang them,” Dee replied (Walker 4). Additionally, her act of belittling Maggie whom Mama had saved the quilt for, understood the significance of these quilts and even hand-stitched some of the quilts, did not help her case. Instead, she proved to be inauthentic, untrustworthy and condescending. Dee also failed to appeal to her mother’s emotions. She claimed the quilts were priceless; however, Mama remembers she had offered Dee a quilt years ago when she went to college but said they were old-fashioned and out of style. Mama could see through Dee’s lies. She was not genuine and did not fully understand the quilts’ significance or culture. To her, it was like a trophy to be shown around, while in reality, quilts and culture are a part of everyday life.

Through the scene’s outcome, Alice Walker attempts to exemplify the meaning of culture and heritage. Heritage meant different things to Dee, Mama, and Maggie. To Dee, it was something to be safeguarded and stored in a museum so people could celebrate, whereas, to Mama and Maggie, culture is meant to be lived daily. It should be exemplified in everything people do daily. One needs to be in touch with the culture daily, not occasionally. As the topic depicts, heritage is an everyday use. Although Walker gives two contrasting views of culture, she affirms that heritage is an everyday use through this outcome. Dee rejects some of her past heritage, which is still part of the family. For instance, she hates her mother’s and sister’s farm life. She hates her immediate heritage and only wants certain parts of her heritage. Dee idolizes her imagined heritage. She changes her name and style of dressing. She does not want to live her heritage; she only wants to idealize it as memorabilia. Dee’s view of heritage is uninformed and misguided. Through the negative outcome, Walker rejects the imagined and distant outlook of one’s heritage and affirms that heritage is a part of everyday life as the story’s title depict.

Work Cited

Walker, Alice. Alice Walker:” Everyday Use”. Rutgers University Press, 1994.


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