Everyday Use

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Everyday Use
Everyday Use (Alice Walker short story).jpg
Author Alice Walker
Genre Short story
Publication date
1973 (as part of In Love and Trouble)
ISBN 978-0-8135-2075-9
OCLC 29028043

"Everyday Use" is a widely studied and frequently anthologized short story by Alice Walker. It was first published in 1973 as part of Walker's short story collection, In Love and Trouble.

The story is told in first person by the "Mama", an African American woman living in the Deep South with one of her two daughters. The story humorously illustrates the differences between Mrs. Johnson and her shy younger daughter Maggie, who both still adhere to traditional black culture in the rural South, and her educated, successful daughter Dee, or "Wangero" as she prefers to be called, who scorns her immediate roots in favor of a pretentious "native African" identity.

A film version was released in 2005.


Tuncle carved it from a tree they used to have. However, she wants it for the wrong reason, saying that she will use it only for decoration. Another example is when she wants the quilts that Mama has. She states that she wants them because of the generations of clothing and effort put into making the quilt, showing her appreciation for her heritage. The fact that she changes her name, though, from Dee to Wangero disrespects her heritage because "Dee" is a family name that can be traced back many generations. The story is narrated by the mother.


  • Maggie – Though described by her mother as dull and unattractive, Maggie is a very innocent and humble character. She leads a simple and traditional life with her mother in the South while her elder sister, Dee, is away at school.
  • Mama – Acts as Mama's house. He is referred to as "Asalamalakim", which is a Muslim greeting, by Mama because he is Muslim. He is short and stocky and has long hair that reaches his waist and a long, bushy beard.


One symbol found in this short story is the quilt. The quilt itself is a very meaningful item in the sense that it has history on it; it includes clothes that Dee's great grandma used to wear and pieces of uniforms that Dee's great grandpa wore during the Civil War. However, it also symbolizes value in Negro-American experience. Because Walker includes the fact of the Civil War gives a sense of history to the African American history. The quilt additionally adds to the idea of creative activities women came up with to pass down history from generation to generation.


  • Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use." The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Anna Charters. Compact 8th ed. Boston: Bedfor/St. Martin's, 2011. 852-858. Print.
  • Whitsitt, Sam. "In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use.'" African American Review. 34.3 (2000): 443. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.
  • "Everyday Use." sparknotes.com. sparknotes, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.

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