Womanism In Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'

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“Everyday Use” is one of the most popular stories by Alice Walker. The issue that this story raises is very pertinent from ‘womanist’ perspective. The term, in its broader sense, designates a culture specific form of woman-referred policy and theory. ‘womanism’ may be defined as a strand within ‘black feminism’. As against womansim, feminist movement of the day was predominately white-centric. A womanist is one who expresses a certain amount of respect for woman and their talent and abilities beyond the boundaries of race and class. “Everyday Use” can be seen as a literary representation of this concept. “Everyday Use” is a story of a mother and her two daughters- Dee and Maggie.
While narrating the life of an Afro-American mother and her
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A constant comparison and contrast between Maggie and Dee is prominent structural feature of the narrative. This structural strategy helps in conceptualizing the plurality of female experience within the same milieu. This strategy encapsulates another dimension of womanism, viz., womanism refuses to treat black woman as a homogeneous monolith. Unlike feminist position, womanism is sensitive to change with time. This womanist conceptualization is shown by a nuanced destruction by Dee’s response to the quilt, which is the main metaphor in the story. A typical political rhetoric is represented in the character of Dee. This is a rhetoric which is more aggressive than mature, showier than subtle. Dee ends up in simplifying and commodifying culture, instead of relating it to any meaningful way. She comes out as a being who takes activism as a fad rather than a commitment. And, womanism here represented through Mama, calls for a critical relatedness to the heritage. The narrative articulates the shallowness of Dee’s…show more content…
Having done so, she goes on to highlight the ‘womanist’ culture. Afro-American tradition, for Mama, is symbolized by churn. It is a tradition of bonding, of mutual nurturance. Similarly, the symbol of quilt for Mama is not just a utilitarian item but a living tradition. Alice Walker, in fact, uses the imagery of the quilt to suggest what womanism is all about.
Dee approaches culture by decontextualising it, while Maggie and Mama relate to it with a kind of ‘organic criticality’. The former stance is mere rhetoric and the later one is womanist.
In one of her interviews, Alice Walker identifies three cycles of Black Woman she would explore in her woman’s writing:
1. First are those “who were cruelly exploited, spirits and bodies mutilated, relegated to the narrowest and confining lives, sometimes driven to madness”.
2. Second are those who are not much physically but psychically abused as a result of wanting desperately to participate in mainstream American
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