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Everyday Use

             Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" tells the story of how a mother can become emotionally unattached from her oldest daughter after years of separation. Walker shows how these changes can occur by establishing cultural and social conflicts of this time. Walker establishes these conflicts in three ways: through actual racial conflicts, through showing Dee's (the oldest daughter) rise up the social ladder, and through an overall understanding of one's heritage.
             Walker develops the aspect of racial conflict through Mama's thoughts. Mama, a poor southern black female, describes herself as a strong and hardworking single mother that can not even imagine "looking a strange white man in the eye" (pg. 87). She also establishes underlying conflicts between lighter and darker skinned people within her own race, when she states how her daughter would rather her skin be "like an uncooked barley pancake" (pg. 87). This second example is the first real indication of the strained relationship between Mama and Dee.
             Social aspects of the story begin to unfold when Dee returns home. Dee arrives at Mama's rural shack-like home, with a man that may or may not be her husband, dressed extravagantly and decorated with an abundant amount of jewelry. She (Dee) begins taking pictures, sure to include the shack, before she even greets her own family. She also begins gathering things around the house that are everyday tools for Mama and Maggie (the younger daughter) which she will use as decoration in her own home. These items seem to be a symbol for her, something she can look at that will represent just how far up the social ladder she has risen. Dee even goes as far as telling her sister Maggie," You ought to try to make something of yourself, too"(pg 91). This statement is an insult to mama and Maggie both.
             Both of the examples above can be used to help illustrate the theme of heritage, which can pose a social or a cultural conflict for everyone, especially the characters in this story.

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