The Importance of Home
The place where you hang your hat, where the heart is, is a link to the past, and through its door one walks into the future: home can be many things t one person. To many Georgians, home is the place where they come from, the place where the famiy line can be traced from memories and keepasakes. In “Everyday Use”, Alice Walker explores the importance of home to a family of three women in Georgia.
This story is told from the eyes of Mama, Dee and Maggie’s mother. Walker uses Mama to characterize her daughters and herself in an unbiased light that only a mother could love or know. Mam is a “large, big boned woman wit rough, man working hands”, “who can kill and clean a hog as mersilessly as a man”(1). Mama, a round cahracter, lives a life that contradicts Dee’s ideas. Mama contributes it mostly to her and Maggie’s lack of academis intelligence. She usually allows Dee to receive what she wants because of this difference. By the end of this short story, Mama puts her foot down. Mama describes Maggied, a dynamic character, with a tone of pity. “She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her buy”(3). Maaggies is accustomed to being pushed aside. Maggie is characterized in this story by her actions rather than her words. Her sullen attitude is seen in her mother’s descripion of her simply walking. “Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog, run over soem careless person, sidle up to someone who is ingorant enough to be kind to them?”(2). Dee seems to be the cause of her angst. Near the conclusion, Maggie’s sullen attitude is ahnged when her mother refuses to allow her to be pushed aside by Dee. “Maggie smiled. . . But a real smile not scared”(7). Dee felt she was different from the rest of her family. She was the olly one to attend college. She favors what was popularized by the world outside of her home. “Dee wanted nice things. . . at sixteen she had a style of her own”(2). Her mother “offered her a qulit when she went away for college. She told me they were old fashioned, out of style”(6). She is a static character. She returns home unahnged, not willing to understand another point of view, but wanting her family to change and bend to her ideas even after the short story concludes.
Symbolism, the association of a meaning or theme to an item, is used in this novel to give ther reader a greater understanding of each characters inner thoughts. Walker linked these characters with tow main contextual symbols: the house and the two quilts. As the house burns, each character’s position around the house directly related to how they feel about their family background. Maggie felt that the house was a part of her For Maggie, the house held memories of her and her family. As her dress fell off “her in little black papery flakes” in the fire, parts of her were lost with the house(2). Dee, on the other hand, was far from the ho;use, steadily concentrating on the burning house until it was completely destroyed. Dee did not desire to be associated with her family, like she did not want to be associated with the house. Both were slow to change and confirm to the actions of the world outside of her family’s own tight circle. The quilts had a similar meaning but meant something different for Maggie and Dee. For Maggie, the quilt was a link to her grandmother and her family’s past. Dee saw the quilt only as art that was temporily valuable. Like the house, the quilt represented a family’s heritage.
Dee’s visit set the stage for many ironic statements. Irony or contradictions between ideas and reality, can be seen in what Dee would like her family to be and what really is. Waiting for Dee’s arrival, her mother co;ntemplates that difference: “In real life,I am a large, big boned woman, with man working hands. . . But of course all this does not show on television. I am the way my daughter wants me to be, a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like and uncooked barely pancake. My hair glistens in the hot, bright lights”(2). Iron is also seen when Dee announces her death and new lifestyle, but still ate chitterlings an other foods her mother cooked. In her new life these foods are forbidden to eat, which Dee does not seem to acknowledge. Walker uses this irony to show how artificial and temporary Dee’s interest in her heritage is. Dee’s lsat statements demostrated Walker’s use of verbal irony: “You just don’t understand. . . Your heritage”(7). In actualitiy, she was the one who knew nothing about her heritage.
Home holds one’s history and heritage. Like a tree, stronger are one’s roots that run deep or know where one comes from. As Walker displays in this short story, you can be lost if home is just put behind you. It is an important part of one’s life.