“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker: Worksheet
1. Through whose eyes and viewpoint is the story told?Mama tells the story in first-person narration.
2. Using an Historical Perspective, what events were happening in America in 1970 when this story was written? What might be the influence of those events on what happens in the story?In the 1970s, many American feminist groups fought to expand their social and political rights. The popularity of feminism is evident in this story as portrayed by Dee. Dee has decided to change her name to an African one terming her former name as attempting to glorify her’ oppressors.’
3. Why does Dee dress the way she does? Dee’s dress code is a statement to show the new African heritage she claims to come from, whereas in reality, she does not understand much about her true heritage.
4. What is ironic about the fact that the local church raised money for Dee to go to college?It is ironic that now that Dee is educated, she has changed her identity and revolts the teachings of her local church, yet the money to study was raised by this same church.
5. Why does Mama tell us about her dream at the opening the story about a television program?Mama tells us that she dreams of attending a television program to reunite with Dee. She imagines the show to be hosted by a host like Johnny Carson.
6. Why is sister Maggie the way she is?Maggie was involved in a fire accident when she was young, and it left her scarred. Maggie is unexposed to the outside world since she has never left her mother. Her purity is because of this inexperience and lack of ‘education.’
7. What is unusual about Dee’s boyfriend?Dee’s boyfriend tries to make a good impression but ends up overdoing it by making Maggie uncomfortable. He appears awkward, and Dee never officially discloses her relationship (husband/boyfriend) with him.
8. Why did Dee change her name to Wangero? Do you know of any other Black Americans who changed their names in the 1960s?Dee changed her name because she believed it showed she understood her heritage. Muhammad Ali is an example of a Black American who changed his name in the 1960s. He was initially called Cassius Marcellus Clay.
9. Why does Mama not give the quilts to Dee/Wangero?Mama did not give Dee the quilt because she had promised it to Maggie. Also, Mama knew Dee was lost and did not understand her heritage.
10. What is significant about the construction of the quilts?The construction of the quilts seems to be something passed from one generation to the other. The quilts in the story were made by Mama’s mother, and both Mama and Maggie could make it, showing they understood and appreciated their heritage.
11. Who in the story represents the true heritage – Dee/Wangero or Mama?Mama represents the true heritage. She keeps alive customs passed on to her by the former generation. Mama is not ashamed of her past and where she came from.
12. Why will Mama not listen to Dee when her daughter shares with her the new ideas she has been learning at college?Mama will no listen to Dee because she is lost and clings to self-made/falsified heritage. Dee’s new ideas from college do not convey Mama’s traditions.