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).


Below you can read an excerpt from our study guide:

Inner characterization

Mama’s inner characterization is constructed through her perspective, language, actions, and attitude.

Mama’s personality

The first thing we notice about Mama is that she loves her yard. In her opinion, the yard is like an extended living room, and most people do not know how comfortable it can be. This alludes to Mama’s upbringing in a rural and poor community and indicates that she is comfortable being outside.

Her rural upbringing is further emphasized when she describes her abilities: “I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man.”; “I can work outside all day (…) One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain (…) and had the meat hung up to chill by nightfall.”. This indicates both physical and mental strength. These qualities are also underlined through a backstory about living through the traumatic event of her house burning down, which also scarred Maggie for life. Her description of her actions suggests that she is proud of her strength.


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Everyday Use

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