Everday use-for Your Grandmama

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"EVERDAY USE--For Your Grandmama"


  • published in In Love and Trouble (1973),

    • with subtitle: "Stories of Black Women";

    • collection of stories, written while teaching at Radcliffe



  • significance of the title? (to the story)

    • = quilts

    • true meaning of heritage

  • Subtitle: your grandmother:

    • Alice Walker’s or reader’s?

    • How might it point to heritage?

  • everyday items”:

    • yard

    • houses

    • benches

    • churn

    • quilts

    • to see pride, beauty in these common items

    • not icons or symbols, but living heritage


  • told in IDIOM, Black vernacular

  • flashback


  • sense detail, description

  • **SIMILES, Metaphors:

    • "like"

    • connected to theme/meaning, characterization


  • ART:

    • art for art’s sake

    • art for practical use (“art nouveau”)

  • college:

    • “age of self-righteousness” =

    • easily manipulated, led

    • time of search for identity, SELF

  • male domination/oppression

  • Black sisterhood – through quilting

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

  • self-acceptance, self-discovery

  • race, class, gender:

    • all white people = bad

    • racial shame

    • poverty

  • to see beauty and cultural value in “Everyday”, ordinary objects

  • not symbolic value, but practical

cultural heritage:

  • What is it? How is passed on: quality time vs. not given/taken

  • familial heritage vs. cultural heritage

    • family history, immediate family

    • racial or cultural history

  • 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

    • objects are not symbols; real, useful objects

    • tied to memories, personal involvement

  • *appropriation of cultural artifacts

    • (materialism)

    • ("slave mentality" Jesse Jackson, conspicuous consumption)

  • *artistic use vs. practical use

    • ?? artistic = typically feminine (here, masculine, the aggressive, acquisitive Dee)

    • ?? practical = typically masculine ((here, feminine, Dee, Maggie, women, sisterhood)

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

  • *objects are not symbols

  • *how to pass on legacy:

    • bonding, “quality time”, spending time with (not buying or taking or hanging or dressing)


  • Things They Carried

    • Jimmy Cross = Mama

    • fantasies = self-delusions to hide from reality

    • know it is not right, real

    • how to cope, deal

  • Occurrence at OCB

    • fantasies = self-delusions to hide from reality

    • easier to fantasize than face reality

  • Parable of Prodigal Son

    • mirror of that story

    • Mama = Father

  • Good Country People

    • Dee= Hulga

    • education = bad, makes bad people, self-righteous, snobbery
  • Clod & Pebble

    • Dee & Maggie = happy w/what they have

    • “Heaven in Hell’s despite”


  • chronology (waiting)

  • flashbacks

  • 5 parts (spaces in between)

    • prologue/exposition w/television fantasy of reunion

    • description (of fire, Dee)

    • education

    • 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, pretentiousness

    • 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

  • Maggie as narrator:

    • too forgiving, excusing;
    • though she would demonstrate her mother’s passive-aggression, sense of humor (see “Dee have any friends”)

  • Dee as narrator:

    • extremely biased, “unreliable narrator”

    • blind to her own blindness, bias, faults

    • overly critical, condescending


  • big, fat, Black woman

  • cow-like

    • slow, sluggish, not terribly bright

    • slow to anger but then pow!

  • mannish:

    • hands, clothes (flannel 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

    • passive-aggression

  • Dee & Maggie = 2 parts of Maggie:

    • manly, strong, forward, survivor
    • linked to nature, family, heritage

    • *Mama never abandons Dee, b/c part of her, still “her daughter”

    • (SHK’s The Tempest: Prospero, Caliban, Ariel; end = Prospero embracing Caliban)

  • Mama =strong:

    • passive aggressive about whites, Dee

    • manly, physically strong

    • emotionally strong (raised 2 daughters w/o husband, sent 1 to school)

  • racial stereotype as hero

    • comment on Black Nationalism movement


  • 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)

  • embarrassed 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

  • semi-illiterate

  • bad eyesight

  • not bright

  • to marry John Thomas (with his mossy teeth though 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

  • victimization

  • Maggie = abuse victim

  • self, identity making

  • children embarrassed by parents

  • parents catering to spoiled child

    • (squeaky wheel get the grease)

    • reaction formation/smother love: doesn’t love Dee, doesn’t like Dee BUT caters to her

  • something @ phony cultural heritage?


  • female victimization

  • female sisterhood (of quilt-making)


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


  • Mama observes w/o interpreting --> 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

  • passive-aggression:

    • overcompensation of her glorification in her 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




use description & personality

  • Asalamakim

  • Dee (Wangero)

  • Maggie

  • Mama

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 for a 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 integral part 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?


  • quilts

  • butter dish

  • churn top

  • dasher

  • house
  • characters (Dee, Mama, Maggie, Asal.)

  • clothes of character


  • clothes


  • Between whom?

  • What is the CLIMAX and RESOLUTION of the conflict?


  • What is the significance of the title? (to the story)

  • Subtitle: your grandmother:

    • AW’s or reader’s?

    • How might it point to heritage?


  • cultural heritage **

  • race

  • class, gender

  • sibling rivalry


  • sibling rivalry

  • self, identity

  • victimization mentality

  • smother love, overcompensation

  • reaction-formation


  • How is the story structured?

  • How many parts?

  • How are they divided?

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


PART 1: waiting

  • swept dirt demonstrates

    • poverty

    • her pride in work

    • in touch with nature

    • her nervousness, self-consciousness (Dee controls her feelings, makes her feels ashamed)

  • Maggie = dog

    • dog that’s been hit by a car (Dee shows up in a big car)

    • psychology of abuse victim

    • “you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, ‘til you spend half your life just covering up” (Springsteen, “Born in the USA)


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