Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Everyday Use" articles for Monday's HW

Here are 4 selections from critical readings of "Everyday Use." This is high level reading, a good introduction to the level of conversation expected at college when looking at literature.

1) read the passages
2) select one passage to work with
3) type and upload to by 10/15 @7pm
-one sentence summary of the passage
-three sentence paraphrase of the passage
-one sentence direct quote (your intro+direct quotation)

1) Mama's comparisons between animals and Maggie often seem insensitive. Without a doubt, the most shocking example of this occurs early in "Everyday Use" when Mama ponders, "Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone ignorant enough to be kind him? That is the way my Maggie walks." Near the end of the story, Mama describes Maggie in similar terms: "I looked at her hard. She had filled up her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff and it gave her face a kind of dopey, hangdog look." It is at this moment in the story that Mama has her epiphany, realizing that her thin, scarred, daughter, deserves the quilts more than her shapely, favored, educated daughter Dee, who only wants the quilts because they are now fashionable. Acting on this flash of insight, Mama does two things that she has never done before: she hugs Maggie and she says "no" to Dee. Afterward, in the final paragraph, Maggie's face lights up with a smile that is "real […] not scared." Moreover, Mama asks her for "a dip of snuff,” and together the enlightened mother and the faithful daughter sit, enjoying their snuff and each other's company, oblivious to the "dopey, hangdog look" they presumably present to the world.
Gruesser, John. "Walker's Everyday Use." The Explicator 61.3 (2003): 183+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 30 Sep. 2011.

2) Before "rifling" through the "trunk at the foot of [Mama's] bed" and getting out the quilts, Dee has already removed all the items of everyday use that she will lay her hands on. The quilts she gets out of Mama's trunk are quite clearly in a trunk, which is to say not in everyday use. These quilts, which had been pieced by Mama's mother, and then quilted by her and her sister, had been tucked away, put in reserve, and not because they were being temporarily stored for the summer. When a horrified Dee claims that, if the quilts are given to Maggie, she would use and consequently ruin them, Mama responds," 'I reckon she would…God knows I been saving 'em for long enough with nobody using 'em'." As Patricia Mainardi notes, "'The women who made quilts knew and valued what they were doing: frequently quilts were signed and dated by the maker, listed in her will with specific instructions as to who should inherit them, and treated with all the care that a fine piece of art deserves'" (quoted in Showalter 2001). The quilts in Mama's house had been placed in reserve because they held a certain value. That Mama had promised them to Maggie "for when she marries,” as a kind of wedding present or dowry, attests to their recognized value, and this value is being protected precisely in their not being put to everyday use.
Whitsitt, Sam. "In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'." African American Review 34.3 (2000): 443. Expanded Academic. Web. 30 Sep. 2011.

3) Dee announces that she is no longer Dee, but "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo." She has newly adopted an African name since, as she explains: "I couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me." Many readers point to Dee's proclamation of her new name as the turning point in the story, the point at which Dee pushes her mother too far. They point out that Dee is rejecting her family heritage and identity in this scene. Yet it seems to me that Dee and Mama are both right here. Mama's recounting of the family history of the name is accurate, but what the critics fail to point out is that Dee's assertion that the name comes from "the people who oppress" her is also accurate. While most readers see Mama and Maggie as having a "true" sense of heritage as opposed to Dee's false or shallow understanding of the past, both Mama and Dee are blind to particular aspects of heritage. Dee has much to learn about honoring her particular and individual family history, but Mama has much to learn about the history of African Americans in general, and about fighting oppression. Although each is stubborn, both Dee and Mama do make a concession to the other here. Dee tells Mama that she needn't use the new name if she doesn't want to, while Mama shows her willingness to learn and to use the name.
Farrell, Susan. "Fight vs. Flight: a re-evaluation of Dee in Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'." Studies in Short Fiction 35.2 (1998): 179+. Expanded Academic. 30 Sep. 2011.

4) Wangero despises her sister, her mother, and the church that helped to educate her. Her quest is ultimately selfish, and Walker focuses the reader's growing dislike for the heroine in her indifference to Maggie. Maggie represents the multitude of black women who must suffer while the occasional lucky "sister" escapes the ghetto. Walker symbolizes this by the burning of the original home and Maggie who lives with the scars of this fire, a conflagration Wangero had welcomed. While Wangero did not set the fire, she delighted in its obliteration of the house that represented everything she sought to escape. This burned house represents a history of violence from slavery to the pervasive inner-city violence of subsequent decades. The fire, that is, is the African American past, is a conflagration from which assorted survivors stumble forward, and covers like Maggie with scars of the body or like Wangero with scars of the soul.
Cowart, David. "Heritage and deracination in Walker's 'Everyday Use.' (Alice Walker)." Studies in Short Fiction 33.2 (1996): 171+. Expanded Academic.. 30 Sep. 2011.

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