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Analysis of Alice Walker’s Everyday Use
By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on May 24, 2021
Probably Alice Walker ’s most frequently anthologized story, “Everyday Use” first appeared in Walker’s collection In Love and Trouble: Stories by Black Women. Walker explores in this story a divisive issue for African Americans, one that has concerned a number of writers, Lorraine Hansberry, for instance, in her play Raisin in the Sun (1959). The issue is generational as well as cultural: In leaving home and embracing their African heritage, must adults turn their backs on their African-American background and their more traditional family members? The issue, while specifically African-American, can also be viewed as a universal one in terms of modern youth who fail to understand the values of their ancestry and of their immediate family. Walker also raises the question of naming, a complicated one for African Americans, whose ancestors were named by slaveholders.
The first-person narrator of the story is Mrs. Johnson, mother of two daughters, Maggie and Dicie, nicknamed Dee. Addressing the readers as “you,” she draws us directly into the story while she and Maggie await a visit from Dee. With deft strokes, Walker has Mrs. Johnson reveal essential information about herself and her daughters. She realistically describes herself as a big-boned, slow-tongued woman with no education and a talent for hard work and outdoor chores. When their house burned down some 12 years previous, Maggie was severely burned. Comparing Maggie to a wounded animal, her mother explains that she thinks of herself as unattractive and slow-witted, yet she is good-natured too, and preparing to marry John Thomas, an honest local man. Dee, on the other hand, attractive, educated, and self-confident, has left her home (of which she was ashamed) to forge a new and successful life.
When she appears, garbed in African attire, along with her long-haired friend, Asalamalakim, Dee informs her family that her new name is Wangero Leewanika Kemanio . When she explains that she can no longer bear to use the name given to her by the whites who oppressed her, her mother tries to explain that she was named for her aunt, and that the name Dicie harkens back to pre–CIVIL WAR days. Dee’s failure to honor her own family history continues in her gentrified appropriation of her mother’s butter dish and churn, both of which have a history, but both of which Dee views as quaint artifacts that she can display in her home. When Dee asks for her grandmother’s quilts, however, Mrs. Johnson speaks up: Although Maggie is willing to let Dee have them because, with her goodness and fine memory, she needs no quilts to help her remember Grandma Dee, her mother announces firmly that she intends them as a wedding gift for Maggie. Mrs. Johnson approvingly tells Dee that Maggie will put them to “everyday use” rather than hanging them on a wall.
Dee leaves in a huff, telling Maggie she ought to make something of herself. With her departure, peace returns to the house, and Mrs. Johnson and Maggie sit comfortably together, enjoying each other’s company. Although readers can sympathize with Dee’s desire to improve her own situation and to feel pride in her African heritage, Walker also makes clear that in rejecting the African-American part of that heritage, she loses a great deal. Her mother and sister, despite the lack of the success that Dee enjoys, understand the significance of family. One hopes that the next child will not feel the need to choose one side or the other but will confidently embrace both.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” In Major Writers of Short Fiction: Stories and Commentary, edited by Ann Charters. Boston: St. Martin’s, 1993, 1,282–1,299.
Categories: Literature , Short Story
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An Analysis of 'Everyday Use' by Alice Walker
Appreciation, Heritage, and the Generosity of Effort
- Short Stories
- Best Sellers
- Classic Literature
- Plays & Drama
- Children's Books
- Ph.D., English, State University of New York at Albany
- B.A., English, Brown University
American writer and activist Alice Walker is best known for her novel " The Color Purple ," which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. But she has written numerous other novels, stories, poems, and essays.
Her short story "Everyday Use" originally appeared in her 1973 collection, "In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women," and it has been widely anthologized since.
The Plot of 'Everyday Use'
The story is narrated in the first-person point of view by a mother who lives with her shy and unattractive daughter Maggie, who was scarred in a house fire as a child. They are nervously waiting for a visit from Maggie's sister Dee, to whom life has always come easy.
Dee and her companion boyfriend arrive with bold, unfamiliar clothing and hairstyles, greeting Maggie and the narrator with Muslim and African phrases. Dee announces that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, saying that she couldn't stand to use a name from oppressors. This decision hurts her mother, who named her after a lineage of family members.
Claims Family Heirlooms
During the visit, Dee lays claim to certain family heirlooms, such as the top and dasher of a butter churn, whittled by relatives. But unlike Maggie, who uses the butter churn to make butter, Dee wants to treat them like antiques or artwork.
Dee also tries to claim some handmade quilts, and she fully assumes she'll be able to have them because she's the only one who can "appreciate" them. The mother informs Dee that she has already promised the quilts to Maggie, and also intends for the quilts to be used, not simply admired. Maggie says Dee can have them, but the mother takes the quilts out of Dee's hands and gives them to Maggie.
Dee then leaves, chiding the mother for not understanding her own heritage and encouraging Maggie to "make something of yourself." After Dee is gone, Maggie and the narrator relax contentedly in the backyard.
The Heritage of Lived Experience
Dee insists that Maggie is incapable of appreciating the quilts. She exclaims, horrified, "She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use." For Dee, heritage is a curiosity to be looked at—something to put on display for others to observe, as well: She plans to use the churn top and dasher as decorative items in her home, and she intends to hang the quilts on the wall "[a]s if that was the only thing you could do with quilts."
Treats Family Members Oddly
She even treats her own family members as curiosities, taking numerous photos of them. The narrator also tells us, "She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house."
What Dee fails to understand is that the heritage of the items she covets comes precisely from their "everyday use"—their relation to the lived experience of the people who've used them.
The narrator describes the dasher as follows:
"You didn't even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood."
Communal Family History
Part of the beauty of the object is that it has been so frequently used, and by so many hands in the family, suggesting a communal family history that Dee seems unaware of.
The quilts, made from scraps of clothing and sewn by multiple hands, epitomize this "lived experience." They even include a small scrap from "Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War ," which reveals that members of Dee's family were working against "the people who oppress[ed]" them long before Dee decided to change her name.
Knows When to Quit
Unlike Dee, Maggie actually knows how to quilt. She was taught by Dee's namesakes—Grandma Dee and Big Dee—so she is a living part of the heritage that is nothing more than decoration to Dee.
For Maggie, the quilts are reminders of specific people, not of some abstract notion of heritage. "I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts," Maggie says to her mother when she moves to give them up. It is this statement that prompts her mother to take the quilts away from Dee and hand them to Maggie because Maggie understands their history and value so much more deeply than Dee does.
Lack of Reciprocity
Dee's real offense lies in her arrogance and condescension toward her family, not in her attempted embrace of African culture .
Her mother is initially very open-minded about the changes Dee has made. For instance, though the narrator confesses that Dee has shown up in a "dress so loud it hurts my eyes," she watches Dee walk toward her and concedes, "The dress is loose and flows, and as she walks closer, I like it."
Uses the Name 'Wangero'
The mother also shows a willingness to use the name Wangero, telling Dee, "If that's what you want us to call you, we'll call you."
But Dee doesn't really seem to want her mother's acceptance, and she definitely doesn't want to return the favor by accepting and respecting her mother's cultural traditions . She almost seems disappointed that her mother is willing to call her Wangero.
Dee shows possessiveness and entitlement as "her hand close[s] over Grandma Dee's butter dish" and she begins to think of objects she'd like to take. Additionally, she's convinced of her superiority over her mother and sister. For example, the mother observes Dee's companion and notices, "Every once in a while he and Wangero sent eye signals over my head."
When it turns out that Maggie knows much more about the history of the family heirlooms than Dee does, Dee belittles her by saying that her "brain is like an elephant's." The entire family considers Dee to be the educated, intelligent, quick-witted one, and so she equates Maggie's intellect with the instincts of an animal, not giving her any real credit.
Still, as the mother narrates the story, she does her best to appease Dee and refer to her as Wangero. Occasionally she calls her as "Wangero (Dee)," which emphasizes the confusion of having a new name and the effort it takes to use it (and also pokes a little fun at the grandness of Dee's gesture).
But as Dee becomes more and more selfish and difficult, the narrator starts to withdraw her generosity in accepting the new name. Instead of "Wangero (Dee)," she starts to refer to her as "Dee (Wangero)," privileging her original given name. When the mother describes snatching the quilts away from Dee, she refers to her as "Miss Wangero," suggesting that she's run out of patience with Dee's haughtiness. After that, she simply calls her Dee, fully withdrawing her gesture of support.
Needs to Feel Superior
Dee seems unable to separate her new-found cultural identity from her own long-standing need to feel superior to her mother and sister. Ironically, Dee's lack of respect for her living family members—as well as her lack of respect for the real human beings who constitute what Dee thinks of only as an abstract "heritage"—provides the clarity that allows Maggie and the mother to "appreciate" each other and their own shared heritage.
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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Everyday Use — Literary Analysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
Literary Analysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
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- Budney, A. J., Roffman, R., Stephens, R. S., & Walker, D. (2007). Marijuana dependence and its treatment. Addiction science & clinical practice, 4(1), 4-16.
- National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2017). Marijuana.
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- Martin, B., & Booth, M. (2003). Cannabis: A history. St. Martin's Press.
- Ferner, M. & Matt, E. (2019). The marijuana industry could be worth $75 billion, but analysts say it's impossible to know for sure. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/26/the-marijuana-industry-could-be-worth-75-billion-but-analysts-say-its-impossible-to-know-for-sure.html
- Wilcox, A. (2017). Does cannabis cure cancer? Leafly.
- Turbert, D. (2018). Can marijuana help treat glaucoma? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/can-marijuana-help-treat-glaucoma
- Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(23), 2219-2227.
- Crean, R. D., Crane, N. A., & Mason, B. J. (2011). An evidence based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive cognitive functions. Journal of addiction medicine, 5(1), 1-8.
- Yanes-Lane, M., Winters, K. C., Moberg, D. P., & Reichert, J. (2020). Marijuana use and risk of lung cancer: a 40-year cohort study. Cancer Causes & Control, 31(1), 37-46.
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“Everyday Use” Literature Analysis
In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is a story about a mother and her two daughters in which one comes back home to visit the family. The history behind the author is she is a highly acclaimed novelist. She experienced her first collection of poetry, in which was published in 1968. The talents she had for story telling sparked her work even more. In The looks of the “ Everyday Use” it seem that the two girls are way different than one another. One of the girls, as it explains in the story “Dee, is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure”, it explains that she’s now become a woman (Walker Pg.346). As far as Maggie, “She had it hard not being so bright and that looks and money”, her mother clearly stated how she doesn’t feel comfortable not being cute enough and not smart enough (Walker Pg.347). So, throughout the story, you will understand what makes them different.
In “Everyday Use”, the mother explains dee and how she thinks she’s too good for what happened. Dee was lighter than Maggie, she had nicer hair and a fuller figure. She was a woman and her mom sometimes forgot that. When the house burned down about 12 years ago (Walker Pg.345). The mom explains how she can see Maggie’s arms sticking to her, her hair smoking and her dress falling off in little black papery flakes. As she glances over, she sees dee standing off under the sweetgum tree she used to dig gum out of, look of concentration on her face. She then asks dee “Why won’t you do a dance around the ashes?” that’s how much dee hated the house (Walker Pg.345). This explains how dee felt that she was way better than what they had. They raised money to send her Augusta school. She got to become full of knowledge and fill their heads with what she knew. She wanted the nice things. Dee was the kid who got it all and felt better than how she was raised.
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Maggie will be nervous until her sister leaves She will stand in shame because of the scars down her arms in legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy. She’s having issues with the way she looks Maggie says, “In real life, I am large, big-boned woman with rough, man working hands”, she is shaming her herself for not being able to look flawless and know the nature of booty(Walker Pg.345). She explains that she’s good at man work, but not at female work. She has tendencies to kill and clean hogs as a man. The structure of her being big boned keep her from being cold in the zero weather as she explains the ways she looks and how horrible she feels.((Walker Pg.346). Maggie was left out in the story , it seemed that since she had been the one to discover the pain and heartache, she was looked at with shame. As the story go on , you start realize how much she doesn’t appreciate herself and how she’s afraid to even be around her sister . But the fact that she found someone who love her for her which was john. The mother is also excited about Maggie marrying John and her being able to sing hymns.
As Dee arrives, Maggie attempts to dash in the house. The glimpse of her feet was always neat as if God himself shaped them with a certain style. Dee and her boyfriend arrive and that’s when Maggie sucks in her breath and says “ Uhnnh” (Walker Pg.347). Dee’s mother that doesn’t approve of the boyfriend and his appearance and doesn’t like what Dee’s appearance looks like either. Dee than gets a camera and snaps a few pictures of Maggie and her mama. Dee’s boyfriend then tries to shake Maggie’s hand and she refuses (Walker Pg.348). The mothers then try to pronounce Dee’s new name, in fact, she can barely pronounce (Walker Pg.348). Dee then tells her mom she doesn’t have to call her that, but mother insisted that she will call her that. In this story, it has plenty of allegory with two parallel and one consistent level of meaning. Throughout the remainder of the story, Dee has this sense that she wants to be like her heritage and not just what her mama think. She rather take it upon herself to be what she wants and doesn’t care how anyone else feels about that. She states that “ She’s dead “, which shes saying that dee no longer exist and that was the name that oppressed her. She rather stick with her heritage(Walker Pg.348).
In conclusion to this story, Dee wants to get in touch with her African side of the family. But in doing so in the meantime, she ignores the fact that her mom has other ways of doing so. Dee wants to showcase the African heritage and show it off which is why she changed her name to Wangero. At the end of the story, Dee says “You ought to try to make something out of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and mama still live, you’d never know it (Walker Pg.352).” She is setting that even though they have a different lifestyle than her, they should make the best of what they have and even better. Dee’s style of living is symbolic of her culture. For Maggie and her mother, they are living in real experience.
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“Everyday Use” Alice Walker Analysis
In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, there are many themes and motifs presented throughout the plot. The major theme of heritage is present throughout the story. Walker shows the importance of heritage through her extensive use of irony. For example, Dee changes her name to Wangero to reflect the new fad of
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- How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide
How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide
Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.
Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.
A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.
Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :
- An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
- A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
- A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.
Table of contents
Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.
The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.
Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.
To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.
Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?
What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).
Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.
- Who is telling the story?
- How are they telling it?
Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?
Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.
The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?
Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.
- Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
- Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
- Plays are divided into scenes and acts.
Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.
There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?
With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.
In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.
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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.
If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:
Essay question example
Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?
Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:
Thesis statement example
Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.
Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.
Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.
Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:
Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:
The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .
However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:
Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.
Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.
Finding textual evidence
To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.
It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.
To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.
Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.
A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.
If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.
“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”
The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.
A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.
Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!
If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.
The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.
A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.
Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.
In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.
Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.
To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.
A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:
… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.
Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.
This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.
Using textual evidence
A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.
It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:
It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.
In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:
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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.
A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.
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Caulfield, J. (2023, August 14). How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide. Scribbr. Retrieved August 30, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/literary-analysis/
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Hi, I'm wondering if you could address the structure of a literary analysis for a 10,000 word dissertation? Thanks
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
Like an essay, a literary analysis dissertation should include an introduction and a conclusion. The body text should be divided into chapters with clear headings (2 or 3 body chapters would generally be appropriate for a dissertation of this length). Apart from that, there are no set rules for the structure – it just needs to be logically organized.
If you're analyzing several longer texts, you could focus on one text per chapter; if you're working with more than one author, you could focus on a different author per chapter; if you're working on a wider variety of texts (or on a single text), you can organize the chapters by theme or topic.
It might help to think of your dissertation as a series of smaller interrelated essays: each chapter should have a logical internal structure of its own, with an introduction and conclusion paragraph. In the main introduction and conclusion, you should make it clear how all the chapters fit together and contribute to your overall argument.
I hope that's helpful!
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“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker Critical Analysis Research Paper
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, which depicts the situation of a rural American south family, is one of the widely studied and regularly anthologized short stories. The story is set in a family house in a pasture and it is about an African-American mother, “Mama Johnson,” and her two daughters, Maggie and Dee.
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Mama, who grew up during the early twentieth century, is the main character in the story since she narrates it. She is portrayed as struggling to embrace the culture of her daughter Dee. Dee got an advanced education in Augusta Georgia before moving to work in an urban set up. Maggie, who is portrayed as the less fortunate one, stayed with her mother while Dee was going to school. The author uses her talent in writing to illustrate the difficulties encountered by African-Americans, particularly those of the females.
Currently, there are marked similarities and differences between families living now and those who lived in the past. Although there may be disparity in setting, several family issues as well as situations are similar. In addition, most families still cherish and hold certain things sacred. An example of these is culture. In this present world, most households are still interested in knowing the background they came from.
This is inclusive to both parents and their children. However, it is important to note that the significance of culture to a family is varied. A number of people take the position that their actions are dictated by their ancestral traits. For instance, a person may perceive that he or she may have inherited a character trait such as being cunning from a past relative. Even though, some other individuals have not developed the interest of knowing their family backgrounds.
The representation of family backgrounds in “Everyday Use” is what makes this literary work unique and worthwhile. As Walker intertwines a story about the African culture and its role in one family’s life, she succeeds in portraying it differently through the eyes of Mama’s daughters.
Both Maggie and Dee (Wangero) have contrasting traits and both hold diverse viewpoints regarding the quilts. Mama serves the purpose of connecting her two daughters. Nevertheless, she is depicted to be closer to Maggie. This is because the two have similar behavioral traits.
Maggie and her mother hold the opinion that ones culture is based on a foundation of inherited objects as well as methods of thinking. On the other hand, Dee views culture as something that is no longer relevant in the modern society since it has been washed away by history.
The most central point is that the culture depicted in the short story is focused on learning and education. More so, the thoughts possessed by the different characters played a pivotal role in shaping the culture they depended on. Therefore, the varied viewpoints concerning African American culture result in the tension evident throughout the short story.
By the use of the technique of contrasting the characters and their opinions in the story, the author succeeds in demonstrating the significance of comprehending our present life in relation to the culture that our own people practiced in the past.
Through calculated descriptions and attitudes, the author illustrates the factors that have a say in the values of an individual’s heritage and culture. Walker shows that they cannot be symbolized through the possession of objects or mere appearances. She emphasizes that the lifestyle and attitudes of an individual are the ones capable of symbolizing them.
In the short story, the author personifies the various aspects of culture and heritage. She achieves this in portraying the contrast between Dee and her mother. Mrs. Johnson and Maggie can be said to represent the relationship between generations and culture that passed between them since their actions are based on traditions and what they learnt from their past ancestors.
The author also represents Maggie as a type of culture to her mother herself, and the traditions were passed to her through teaching. As Dee’s mother makes it clear to her, Maggie is conversant with her heritage, “She can always make some more; Maggie knows how to quilt” (Missy and Merickel, 454).
However, it is interesting that Dee does not take the initiative to know whether her sister is able to make quilt. Maggie demonstrates the trait of vulnerability. This makes her to be extremely uncomfortable through her inward and outward appearance. Maggie’s actions demonstrate how she is self-conscious. As Mama puts it, “She will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs” (Missy and Merickel, 449). Most of the time, Maggie liked to keep to herself and follow instructions.
In the story, both Mama and Maggie are portrayed to be living in a run-down home and both of them were not educated in schools. They claim to have received teaching by means of another tradition assisted by their ancestors. The learning they received from their surroundings is out of reach of the present day society. Although Mrs. Johnson had few intentions of pursuing further education just like her daughter, Dee, she only managed to reach second grade (Missy and Merickel, 451).
Nonetheless, she seems to be contented with her own education, which she had acquired from the ancestors. Maggie just adhered to what she was told, chose to stay where she was born, and envied his sister’s outward appearance. By living with her mother, she learnt the skills of life by means of the experiences of her ancestors. Her mother also taught her some traditions.
Culture through the traits of Dee is depicted in a different way from her mother and sister. Dee represents culture in the materialistic and complex context, which ought to be observed and looked upon, but not experienced. The way Dee handles herself is enough to shed more light on her perception about culture and heritage. As the story starts, the narrator takes time to tell the reader how the two sisters were different from one another.
Dee is described as “lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure” (Missy and Merickel, 450). Mama says that she is self-assured and beautiful. These attributes differentiates her from Maggie and Mrs. Johnson who were scared and rough respectively. Dee was known to portray a different character, “She wanted nice things. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (Missy and Merickel, 450-451).
She pursued further education away from her homeland. This depicts her as wanting to reach to the society in order to be famous. Mama was aware of the determination of her daughter, “She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time” (Missy and Merickel, 450-451).
During the visit, which stood for her misconception on heritage and culture, Dee endeavored to reconnect with her traditional roots (Cowart, 180). The visit took place during the period of emerging black awareness and empowerment. Since it had taken years before coming home, she embraced the new lingo and style that was demonstrated by the modernized black women then.
She accompanied herself with a partner called by an Islamic name, Asalamalakim. Moreover, she now prefers to be called Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Here, the reader gets a sense of the disappointing behavior of Dede to her close relations. One anticipates that she will come back to herself before the culmination of the short story in order to realize her mistake.
To welcome her daughter home, Mama has prepared various delicacies. Among the various foods prepared, Dee’s partner did not prefer to consume collards and regarded pork as not clean. However, the others consumed everything. After sometime, Dee started to trouble her mother with various questions pertaining to the household furnishings, their value, as well as their age. The household cherished pictures that were taken in front of the home.
The churn top, which was constructed by Dee’s late uncle, served a historical purpose in the household. Dee considers these items as part of her culture. However, she did not think of them in that perspective while she was growing up. Her perception then was meant to illustrate how she is rooted in her culture.
It was to give an indication to her family members as well as her to her so-called friends, “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table, and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher” (Missy and Merickel, 453). Mrs. Johnson gave permission for her daughter to take these items because she did not consider them as valuable as the quilts.
The peak of the story comes when Dee demands the quilts from her mother. She preferred the old handmaid quilts to the ones stitched by machine. Since the quilts were promised to Maggie when she will eventually marry John Thomas, her mother tried to persuade her to go for the newer ones.
After these arguments, Dee becomes angry and childish, and cries out that her sister will not be able to appreciate the old quilts. She says that Maggie would probably be “backward enough to put them to everyday use!” (Missy and Merickel, 454).For this reason, the title of the story reads “Everyday Use.” By this statement, Walker presents her unique argument whether or not culture ought to be safeguarded and displayed or incorporated into everyday life. A reader can assume that the phrase “Everyday life” relates only to the argument about the quilt.
However, deeper reading within the short story reveals that it concerns people’s culture and heritage and how they make the decision to preserve it or not. In the story, the author developed a critique of postmodern ideals. She also illustrates the detachable nature of symbols. In proposing to hang the quilts, Wangero would be taking them away from their “everyday” use. Therefore, their embedded contextual meaning would be lost.
Mrs. Johnson stood by her decision. Thereafter, Dee and her supposed boyfriend or husband leaves the home. This illustrates another central theme in the story: standing up for the right thing no matter the consequences. This should not be just for oneself, but for others also.
This is demonstrated by the way Mama stood by her decision not to let Wangero go with the handmaid quilts. Mrs. Johnson understood how much Maggie valued the quilts. She also understood that Wangero simply wanted the family belongings so as to keep up with the new African fashion.
Moreover, Dee just wanted to be popular. That is why she even changed her name, which was not the case when she was growing up. As the two visitors leave, Dee laments that Mrs. Johnson does not understand her own heritage. Dee also proposes to her sister to strive to make something out of herself. Eventually, Mama and Maggie, relieved, gaze at the car as it leaves. They then spend time together dipping snuff and they become conscious of the fact that they are the ones enjoying their lives as well as their cherished heritage.
The misunderstanding that is evident between Dee and Maggie concerning the right ownership of the quilts and their use is essential to the theme of the story. By this, the author is “arguing that the responsibility for defining African-American heritage should not be left to the Black Power movement (White, para.16). Walker effectively argues that the Black Americans ought to take responsibility of their whole heritage, even the parts that seem to be hurting.
Mrs. Johnson symbolizes most of the African-Americans who did not know how to match their past with the civil rights movements that took place in the 1960s (Hoel, para.2). During that time, most Blacks were not at ease with the Black Power movement solution. The technique that the author uses to challenge the African-Americans to respect their heritage is what helps to define this piece of work as a literature of importance.
“Everyday Use” is an exact symbolization of the way of life of most Black Americans in the modern society. Among them, there are those who despise their history and pay less attention to their unprivileged peers. More so, they attempt to be popular and look for wealth in the capitalist world, which entails assertiveness and opportunism.
On the other hand, the rural south is slow and they esteem the importance of the family and culture. The conservative rural folks find it difficult to embrace the extremes of urbanism. At the same time, however, those who abandoned the traditional black culture are still trying to hold on it. They achieve this by having cultural artifacts, antiques, as well as souvenirs.
Walker uniquely presents this scenario in the short story, which is about African-American identity crisis and the place of their culture and values in the modern society.
Through the story, the author illustrates that it is impossible to change ones culture. This is because an individual’s culture and heritage are passed on from one generation to the next. It cannot be acquired or, worse still, picked up all of a sudden. Therefore, Walker’s point is clear: An individual who holds real heritage and culture is obliged to apply it each day of his or her life on earth.
Cowart, David.”Heritage and Declaration in Walker’s ‘Everyday Use.’” Studies in Short Fiction 33 (1996): 171-84. Print.
Hoel, Helga. “Personal names and heritage: Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use.”
Home. Online . Trondheim Cathedral School. 2009. Web.
Missy, James, and Alan, Merickel P. Reading Literature and writing argument , 3 ed. New York: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.
White, David. “’Everyday Use’: Defining African-American Heritage.” Anniina’s Alice Walker Page . 19 Sept. 2002. Web. http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/alicew/davidwhite.htm
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Literary Analysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
- Date: Dec 20, 2019
- Category: Everyday Use
- Topic: Everyday Use Analysis
- Words: 1049
- Downloads: 3
Everyday Use by Alice Walker could be considered one of the notable pieces of American literature. It is a story that tells of an inherent component in the American narrative as a nation, including the story of its people. This particular tale accomplishes this by depicting Americana from the lenses of African American women and the experiences of their race. It is based on the story of a mother and her two daughters named Dee Wangero and Maggie. Throughout the story, the author was able to highlight the conflicts between the two daughters as well as between the daughters and their mother. In the process, Walker was able to explore, discuss, articulate and critique the African American experience as well as those of its womenfolk. The efficacy by which the author was able to tell the tale is primarily on account of the fact that the subjects and themes are close to her heart and activism. One must remember that Walker is a crusader of women’s rights, and is known for her stand against issues such as domestic violence, racism, and sexual abuse. In Everyday Use, Walker illustrates the tension between poverty on one hand and inequality on the other, including the issues previously cited.
Walker first explored how Dee and Maggie grew up together. These two portrayed completely different individualities and they represented several characteristics of African Americans as imposed by society, discrimination, and self-identity. The author was able to highlight how these two have contrasting views about their past and the future and that they reflected the concerns that confronted and continue to confront African Americans. For instance, Walker, through the content and tone of the main character, Mama, showed the varied definitions people have regarding heritage and identity. This not only includes the perspective of others but also the self-image of individuals who are conditioned by society including its prejudices. What is enlightening in this respect is how oppression could be imbibed so that a person discriminates against himself or herself because it is the norm, having known no alternative in the course of his or her life.
Particularly, I have chosen paragraphs 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Walker’s opus in this paper’s discourse. I believe that these summarize the entirety of the piece, particularly the tone and the theme. I have come to understand what the writer was talking about and also the direction that the narrative is going to take because of these passages. This is particularly important because the beginning is convoluted for me. There was a beautiful introduction by way of a person talking about it but I could not place who was talking. There were sisters, Maggie and Dee and for a time I thought the narrator was either one of them. The passages I mentioned sort of cleared the air.
The one narrating the story is the mother and she claimed to be uneducated, large, with all the emotional and psychological baggage imposed by her race during her time. I will use this context to evaluate the passages. I think that it is crucial to make her character credible, which is extremely important because she holds the story together. Inconsistency in this respect could lead to the unraveling of the narrative.
First, the words were simple and the sentences were basic, which validated the background and profile of the narrator. I also did not have any difficulty understanding words because the narrator provided analogies that capture their meaning. The way concepts were presented is also quite remarkable and moving. Take the case of the description of the daughter Maggie. I could have plunged straight to the point and say she is shy and in a brief flash of creativity could even add some words like “she is afraid of her own shadow”. But the author – in the narrator – used a dog, a careless person, a caring individual who was labeled ignorant because of his nature in order to describe Maggie. It is heartbreaking that makes the reader picture the daughter with all the contexts of her circumstance and that of her family thrown in for good measure. For me, it was like, “I have seen Maggie and as if I have known her all her life.” This drew me to her and the narrator’s tale.
There is also the way the narrator’s point of view merges with the daughters. It is like when she described her daughters and compared them, she was also throwing herself in the mix. There were vivid descriptions of herself interspersed with those of her daughters. Also, the way she looks at Maggie with her scars and all makes one realize that perhaps she is looking at a version of herself or at least at a deeper affinity. The narrator has expressed fear and intimidation when faced with white men. She could not look them in the eye and would take the first opportunity to run from them. She marveled at how Dee, her other daughter, was so different but talked about the weaknesses of her other daughter with great familiarity. This, for me, is the highlight of the passages.
All in all, Everyday Use is notable not only because it depicted the people and issues that are prominent fixtures of several pages of American history in a potent and insightful manner. What is also worth noting is the manner by which Walker was able to articulate the themes involved effectively. Embedded within the story of Mama, Dee and Maggie were the complex issues that typified African American life within a period wedged between oppression and liberation. The author deftly navigated through the challenge of portraying such complexities by identifying aspects in the lives of mother and daughters and presenting them in a simple depiction of intertwined lives that made the message all the more heartfelt, recognizable and true. It is also important to note that, in Maggie and Dee, Walker was able to create memorable characters that are representative of the experience, tragedy, and hopes of the African Americans. While Maggie signified the past, for instance, she was treated as someone that must not be forgotten, including the values that defined her as a black person. This is the same in the manner by which Dee was made the embodiment of the now, the future and all possibilities.
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