Alice walker

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  • Georgia, sharecropper parents:

    • WRITING:

      • blind in right eye (accidentally shot in the eye by her brother, too poor to get it taken care of properly)

      •  withdrawal from people, careful observation of people

    • STYLE:

      • Black vernacular

      • slavery and oppression

      • poverty

  • college educated:

    • scholarship to Spelman College,

    • Sarah Lawrence College in NY

    • pregnant & suicidal  abortion  poems of Once (1968), deal with Africa, civil rights in Georgia

    • 1964: Uganda as exchange student

  • 1966: graduation, NYC welfare case worker, Mississippi--voter registration

  • teacher (Jackson State, Wellesley, Radcliffe Institute)

  • civil rights activist

  • married & had daughter:

    • with Mel Leventhal,

      • white/Jewish civil rights lawyer

      • 9 years, since divorced

  • The Color Purple, 1983

    • Pulitzer Prize (1st Black woman writer)

    • epistolary convention

    • vernacular speech
    • 1985 movie, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Golderburg, Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover

  • against "literary separatism": black & white writers writing only for their respective races

  • greatly influenced by Flannery O'Connor & Zora Neale Hurston

  • Womanist

    • not the same as Feminist

    • appreciation for the culture, character, and emotions of women


  • vernacular, idiom

  • the absurdity of grief, no tears, no weepiness  stories in which grief is mixed with laughter "to retrieve sanity"

  • Black experience, especially Black women (Black sisterhood)

  • ordinary people

  • oppression of female sexuality

  • male dominance, oppression, abuse

  • universality of the human experience:

    • (not just about the experiences of Black women—but of all humanity)

    • by exploring issues of RACE and GENDER

    • by exploring experiences of Black women

    • journeys of self-discovery

    • hope in despair (forgiveness, affirmation, bonding—celebration of the human spirit)

      • literature of survival”

      • outer hell (oppression, abuse, neglect, racism, sexism)

      • vs.

      • inner heaven (strength, beauty, perseverance)
      • writes of “the social and personal drama in the lives of familiar people who struggle for survival of self in hostile environments” (Dictionary of Literary Biography, qtd. By CA database, emphasis mine)

  • activism, cultural criticism

  • (-) criticism

    • sexist: male stereotypes (all bad men)

    • racist: whites are stupid and incompetent

      • although both may be excused, from the POV of the victim

      • although some of the men are “reformed” by the end

    • too socio-political:

      • propaganda, not literature; stereotypes, preaching, stiffly didactic

      • “smug preachiness, the unconvincing experiences, and the idiosyncratic thinking [that] make[for] more of a self-indulgent fantasy” (Kirkus review, qtd. by CA)

      • “New Age hooey”

    • recycled Color of Purple (characters, movie)

"EVERDAY USE--For Your Grandmama" (1973)

  • published in In Love and Trouble (1973),

  • told in IDIOM, Black vernacular

  • male domination/oppression

  • Black sisterhood – through quilting

  • accept themselves for what they are  frees them from oppression

  • self-acceptance, self-discovery



-use description & personality


-Dee (Wangero)


2) POV:

-Who is the narrator of the story?

---From whose perspective is the story told?

-What type of narrator is this?

-Why is the story from this perspective?

---What advantages does it hold fora storyteller of this story?

-How would the story be different if told from another character's POV--Maggie, Dee, Asal.?

3) FIRE: The fire that destroyed their 1st house is an integralpart of the story.

-What happened? To whom? How did it start? Are we told directly? If not, what do you infer & why?

-Where is it in the story?

-Why is it in the story? (relate to where)


-What was it? How is it present in this story?

-What is the significance of the African names, dress, hair?

-Describe the 2.

-By whom were they made?

-With what material were they made?

-What is their significance to the story?

-What do they SYMBOLIZE?

--Why does Dee want them?

--Why does Maggie want them?

--Why does Maggie acquiesce to Dee's demand?


-butter dish

-churn top



-characters (Dee, Mama, Maggie, Asal.)


-Between whom?

-What is the CLIMAX and RESOLUTION of the conflict?


-What is the significance of the title?


-cultural heritage **


-class, gender

-sibling rivalry

-sibling rivalry

-self, identity

-victimization mentality

-smother love, overcompensation



-How is the story structured?

-How many parts?

-How are they divided?

-Give a subtitle to each of the (5) parts.



-sense detail, descvription

-**SIMILES, Metaphors:


---connected to theme/meaning, characterization


race, class, gender:

--all white people = bad

--racial shame


**cultural heritage:

-acquire, possess, display, show off

---desperation, affectation, reaction-formation


-use, appreciate, memory, "everyday use"

---true appreciation, heartfelt; more than the object

---used & appreciated, NOT hung & forgotten

*appropriation of cultural artifacts (materialism)("slave mentality" Jesse Jackson, conspicuous consumption)

*artistic use vs. practical use

*objects = connection to people, family, land, nature

-Jimmy Cross = Mama

-fantasies = self-delusions to hide from reality

-know it is not right, real

-how to cope, deal

-chronology (waiting)


-5 parts (spaces in between)

--prologue/exposition w/television fantasy of reunion

--description (of fire, Dee)



--reunion (reality)

-----conflict, climax, resolution


-1st person POV

-limited omniscience (just Mama's thoughts, observations)

-from Mama:

--background information: Maggie & Dee's past, the fire, Dee's childhood,

--the truth about Dee: the TRUTH about Dee's name, the TRUTH about Dee and the quilts, the TRUTH about Dee's friendships, her boyfriends

--the MOCKERY of Dee's changes, prententiousness

--her objectivity, observation w/o interpretation (for the reader --> READER-RESPONSE)

--IRONY & THEME: she, not Dee, truly "understands" her heritage, to use "everyday" items & appreciate them in that context; they were made to be used, not hung

*to agree with Mama's side of the heritage debate, to side against the Black Nationalism Movement



-big, fat, Black woman

---"In reality, I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, manworking hands" (141).


---hands, clothes (flanel nightgowns, overalls), work

---more fitted to a man's work (break ice, hog slaughter, bull calf, milk cows)

---"I was always better at a man's job" (142)--hooked by horn in her side i 1949 for milking it the wrong way--bull??

-second-grade education (1927: school closed by whites)

* "smother love"

* avoids Maggie, favors Dee -- never hugged Maggie since the fire

* REALIZATION: (146) tired of defending herself, apologizing for herself to Dee, realizes Maggie is good & deserving in her own right, inner beauty vs. outer beauty*

-her subtle MOCKERY of Dee's pretensions

-foil, antagonist:

-foil to Maggie

-effect on Maggie

-foil to Mama (2 notions of "heritage")

-catalyst: stirs the actions of the plot

-description: NOT NICE, few friends, "queen bee," condescending ("read to us without pity....burned us with knowledge we didn't necessarily need" (142), reads down at sister & mother, not to them--throws her education in their faces)

-sent away to Augusta to school (church $)

-light-skin Black

-nice hair, fuller figure

-"scalding humor", "faultfinding power" (143), "she has a temper" (146)

-embarraessed by her mother, sister, heritage; their lack of money, education, sophistication, "style", their "old-fashioned, out of style" things (146)


-opposite of Dee

-ashamed of herself (= similar to Dee)

-shy, timid, withdrawn, homely, "a lame animal" (141)

-"chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle" (141)

-burn scars down her arms & legs, hair burned

-blacker than her sister

-thin frame


-bad eyesight

-not bright

-to marry John Thomas (with his mossy teeth tho earnest face)


-10 or 12 years ago

-burned Maggie

-** started by Dee

--"She had hated the house that much" (141).

--about the new house: "No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down" (143).


-passive-aggressive behavior by Mama: only pretends not to understand as a way of getting back at Dee's pretensions, she mispronounces their names


-female victimization

-female sisterhood (of quilt-making)

-possession, display (showing off), artifact-making of items


-Mama observes w/o intrepreting --> forces reader to fill in the gap, to see the mockery, to see the characterization of Dee, to see her own over-compensation


-Dee: "being named after the people who oppress me" (144)-exposed as folly

-1927: whites closed down the black school

-talking to a strange white man (Johnny Carson) and looking him the eye (141)


-facts vs. reality

--TV show reunion fantasy

--Dee's name, its lineage

--Dee and the quilts

--overcompensation of her glorification inher description (?)

--wears orchid in fantasy (even though Dee thinks they're tacky)

--mispronounces their African names

--her mocking descriptions of Dee & friend (similes)
-hints about the cause of the house fire

PART 1: waiting

-swept dirt --> demonstrates poverty, pride in work, in touch with nature


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