Everyday Use

Task One As you read Alice Walker’s story, “Everyday Use,” I want you to think about the character of the mother and the daughters in the story. What kind of people are they? What values do they hold in common? What do they disagree about? What mistakes have they made? What dreams do they have? What do you admire about them? What do you dislike? You may complete the initial portion of this assignment by making lists, clusters, or whatever seems to work, but please include a paragraph on each character after you do the brainstorming work. Of course, that means three paragraphs here, one on each of the central characters. Task Two Next, after considering the characters of the story, I’d like you to explore the objects in the story, particularly the quilts. Notice how lovingly Walker describes them and how central they are to the action of the story. Why? What do they symbolize? Please write a paragraph where you explore the symbolic significance of the quilts, quoting wherever possible to illustrate why you think they are significant. Task Three Now, with this work as a foundation, consider the issues in the story. What larger areas of concern does this story raise? These might be issues like revenge, prejudice, fate, tradition, or many other issues. Make a list of these general areas of concern that you think the story raises, and again, summarize your ideas in a paragraph or so. Task Four Finally, taking all of this work into account, I’d like you to consider the theme of Alice Walker’s story, “Everyday Use.” Remember that when we state the theme of a story, we are trying to state the impact of a story as precisely as possible. This statement usually includes two things: an issue and an author’s comment on that issue. For example, if you think a story is about revenge, what does the author want you to believe about revenge? (Note: this comment is quite often implied, not stated. So you’ll probably have to try to put the pieces of the story together.) Example: In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allen Poe suggests that revenge is an insatiable hunger that finally devours everyone associated with it. Now, try to state your interpretation of Walker’s theme. It’s probably easier to explore your ideas in a paragraph or so, but, eventually, try to state your idea in one precise sentence.

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