Everyday Use

This study guide will help you analyze the text “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Everyday Use”
Author: Alice Walker
Published in: In Love and Trouble
Date of Publication: 1973
Genre: Short story

Alice Walker (b. 1944) is an African-American poet, novelist, short story writer, and activist. She received the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Color Purple (1982).


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The title of the short story does not immediately indicate what the story is about. Its meaning is both literal and symbolic.

Its literal meaning is indicated by the conflict between Mama and her daughter Dee over two old quilts. The quilts were made by two generations of women, out of the family members’ clothing. Mama wants to give the quilts to her other daughter, Maggie, so that she can use them. However, Dee sees the quilts as African-American cultural objects and wants them as decorations. She disagrees with Mama’s decision because the everyday use of the quilts will ruin them.

Metaphors and similes

Walker frequently uses metaphors and similes in her story. They help with characterization and convey the main character’s perspective on her surroundings and state of mind.

The first simile we encounter in the story gives readers a sense of how comfortable Mama feels in her yard: “It is like an extended living room”. Another simile helps with Mama’s characterization, conveying that she is strong and tough, a fact which she is aware and proud of: “I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man.”.

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Everyday Use

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