The short story Everyday Use was published by Alice Walker in 1973 and is included in the short stories collection In Love and Trouble. The critical theme in Alice Walker’s stories is racial discrimination, minority issues, and the infringement of women’s rights. In her novels and short stories, she often raises the most critical social problems, which she narrates on behalf of the heroes of her books. In the story Everyday Use, the main problem was the importance of cultural heritage and how it is transmitted.
The story’s main characters are the author herself as a mother and her two daughters: Maggie and Dee, who are very unlike. Dee asked her mother to give her a butter churn and quilts, as a family and national heritage, to keep them and admire them as works of art. As before, Maggie had a different opinion and wanted to use them in everyday life. The author focuses on the differences in the sisters’ views and the irreconcilability of their character. Thus, one of the most critical lines in the plot is their disagreement on which Everyday Use is based.
The outcome and irony of the story’s Everyday Use are that Mom entrusted the family heirlooms to Maggie, not Dee. The author explains this by saying that the primary value of the object is in its use, history, and the hands that held it. If a traditional quilt is hanging on the wall like a picture, it will not give benefit and warmth to the house owners; respectively, its value is lost.
In conclusion, the author touches on the vital problem of preserving and transmitting the heritage of the living experience. Ironically, Dee’s disrespect for her family, as well as her disrespect for the people who make up what Dee sees only as an abstract “legacy,” gives clarity that allows Maggie and her mother to appreciate each other and their shared heritage. Thus, Alice Walker’s story made the reader think about family and cultural values in a person’s life.