Alice Walker is a well known poet, novelist, essayist, educator, biographer, and editor and her quote Black women can survive only by recovering the rich heritage of their ancestors, best characterizes her works and life as a black women in this world. (Walker, 1983) Alice Malsenior Walker born February 8, 1944 in Eatonton, Ga. The youngest of eight children, her parents Willie Lee and Minnie Tallulah were sharecroppers and dairy farmers. From an early age she was introverted and quite shy, possibly a result of her temporary disfigurement and permanent blindness, a result of one of her brothers shooting her in the eye with a bb gun.
She felt that she was ugly and unpleasant to look at so she retreated into solitude, reading poems and stories then writing. (yahoo. com) Walker graduated from high school as valedictorian and prom queen, attended Spelman College after receiving a disability scholarship from the state of Georgia, then in 1963 transferred to Sarah Lawrence College where she graduated in 1965 with a B. A. She was involved with civil rights movement in Mississippi where she lived for seven years. During that time she also got married to a lawyer by the name of Meyvn Rosenman Leventhal and had her daughter Rebecca.
About. com) In 1967 she wrote The Third Life of Grange Copeland while on fellowship at Macdowell Colony in New Hampshire. In 1973 she released a collection of short stories that dealt with the oppression, the insanities, the loyalties and triumphs of black women. Love and trouble won Walker the American Academy and Institutions of Arts and Letters Rosenthal award. (Utexas. com) Between 1979 and 1982 she published several more works and it was her third novel published in 1982 that established her as a major American writer.
Walker used the nineteenth century tradition of women writing confidential letters to comfort one another in the face of physical and psychological abuse. The Color Purple, remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for twenty-five weeks and claimed the American book award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In the late eighties and early nineties she published several books. She has been instrumental in bringing about awareness of female genital mutilation, through writing, film and lecturing around the world. (Yahoo. com. ) Also like the Color Purple, Alice Walker wrote the short story, Everyday Use, in 1973.
The story deals with social realism and the attitude of a character called Dee that is the irony and focal point of Walkers entire story. Dee can be seen to represent a materialistic, complex, and modern way of life where culture and heritage are to be valued only for their trendy-ness, and aesthetic appeal. Dee can also be portrayed as aggressive, greedy and self-serving, to the point of total lack of regard for her family. Although her family feels the force of Dees scorn, they admire her fierce pride, but clearly knows that she has not arrived at a stage of self-understanding.
In Everyday Use, Dee can be seen to be materialistic and complex towards her culture and heritage of her family. Dee lives in a house that is described as ugly and very simple, with a tin roof and with, no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside. Dee despises this house and hates the unsophisticated life of poverty and hardships that her family lives in. Even though Dee rejects the house, at the same time she wants various objects in the house, a churn top, a dasher, and several quilts, which are just as meaningful to the family history as the house.
Dee exclaims, theyre priceless, its because they are handmade by her family and she envisions some sort of monetary value. But what is really priceless is the actual ability to make these items. Dee does not have this ability nor does want it. She has rejected this ability, part of her true heritage, and that is Dees materialistic attitude toward the heirlooms of her family. (Mcquade, ed. And Atwan, ed. 2000) Even more about the hostility of Dees attitude toward her heritage and culture is the significance of Dees name change.
Dee disregards the importance of her name, that fact that she was named after her aunt Dicie. You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie. And when asked about why she changed her name to Wangero, Dee only had a clich answer. I couldnt bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me. Another important detail are the words directly after her answer about what happened to her name-shes dead. By these words, Walker shows that Dee has distanced herself even further from her family, heritage and culture, despite her new name and manner of talking. (Mcquade, ed. And Atwan, ed. 00)
The impression of Dee in Everyday Use, is that Dee is more occupied with aesthetic appearances rather then practicality. She is described as being light skinned, with nice hair that, stands straight up like the wool on a sheep, and full figured. When Dee first comes to visit her family, shes wearing a long dress, even though the weather is very hot. The dress is also gaudy, colored with enough yellow and orange to throw back the light of the sun. Dee is also wearing numerous pieces of jewelry, earrings and bracelets. Dee is more into her self-appeal, then the simplicity of being comfortable.
Mcquade, ed. And Atwan, ed. 2000) Not only is Dee into her aesthetic appearance she is very aggressive, greedy and self-serving. When Dee first meets her family, she starts snapping pictures of the house and her mother before even greeting them with a kiss or a hug, or even a handshake. Later, when theyre in the house. Dee begins just taking various items for herself, assuming they belong to her first, before even asking permission from her mother. Walker, through Mrs. Johnson point of view describes Dee as going straight, to the trunk at the foot of my bed and started rifling through it.
This shows the attitude of Dee being very self-centered and parasitic. (Mcquade, ed. And Atwan, ed. 2000) The story makes clear that Dee is equally confused about the nature of her inheritance both from her immediate family and from the larger black tradition. Dee struggles to move beyond the limited world of her youth, and it shines through by her materialistic attitude and hardship she gives her family. Given the self centeredness and aesthetic appeal she gives, Dee still has a lot of learning to do, and still has to understand herself and will do so from the future experiences in her life.