The Thematic Character of Everyday Use by Alice Walker

            Often times after a person reads a piece of literature, he or she will form opinions about the motivations of the characters, the effects of the setting, the overall theme or underlying message being conveyed, and the other elements that helped to shape the whole story. After contemplating about their particular beliefs about a work, individuals will find their ideas to be different from others because each of them perceives details of the tale in a varying manner. For this reason, it was not surprising that many of my classmates and I had conflicting opinions about the main themes present in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use (For Your Grandmama).” .

             Numerous members of the class strongly felt that the story's central theme lied in the differing values of each the characters. They used textual evidence to prove that Dee's views on certain issues were so unlike those of her mother and Maggie's that they actually created a barrier between Dee and her family. Others felt that the setting and the type/amount of education influenced the motives of each of the characters. These people referred to the fact that Dee had the opportunity to obtain a proper education and that Mama and Maggie did not. The rural setting served as a means to enhance their views because it showed that most people had to work instead of receiving an education. In comparison with these viewpoints mentioned, I took a much different approach to interpreting the principal theme of this story. I truly believed that "Everyday Use” was about the ways in which Dee's personality affected herself and her family. Using this generalized notion, I developed a more precise theme for this work.

             Each of us is raised within a culture, a set of traditions handed down by those before us. As individuals, we view and experience common heritage in subtly differing ways. Within many smaller communities and families, deeply felt traditions serve to enrich this common heritage.

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