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Everyday Use by Alice Walker

            In the late twentieth century short story, "Everyday Use,"" African-American author Alice Walker depicts the bonds among three women in rural Georgia in the 1970's. Sisters Dee and Maggie, along with Mama, struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with one another. All three characters have different opinions about the heritage of their family. Through much difficulty, the family struggles to keep their family traditions alive by keeping art as a viable part of their culture. Walker tries to unite these characters despite the opposing views of Dee, Mama and Maggie regarding the African-American culture. While Dee feels that the quilts are only of value for the financial and artistic reasons, Mama and Maggie know that their value is connected to their heritage and culture. In order to support the story's theme of domestic struggle, Walker employs rural and urban equality, heritage, and the symbolism and importance of quilts.
             Throughout the story, utilizing comparisons between people and animals portrays animal imagery. All three women, Mama, Dee and Maggie, are compared to a different kind of animal. According to Gruesser, Mama refers to herself as a "large big boned woman like an ox and is always working hard on the farm. Also, she calls herself a cow, referring back to the days of slaves where black women were perceived as "breeders."" The cows were valued because of their ability to reproduce"(Gruesser 1 of 2). Mama talks of her fat keeping her hot in cold weather similar to the cow that carries around large amounts of fat allowing it to stay out all year round. Mama's house is also in a cow pasture adding to the animal imagery. Maggie is compared to a dog. "Mama frequently describes Maggie as a docile, somewhat frightened animal, one that accepts the hand that fate has dealt her and attempts to flee any situation posing a potential threat" (Gruesser 1 of 2). She is very obedient to Mama and always follows orders from others.

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