|Plot Summary of Everyday Use by Alice Walker|
|Everyday Use Summary Part II|
|Everyday Use Summary Part III|
|Everyday Use Summary Part IV|
|Printable PDF of Summary w/ Analysis, Important Quotes, More|
Again, another contrasting image appears as the narrator describes Dee during the fire as she stood in safety by a tree with a look of concentration. Her mother almost asks her to do a dance since she hated the house so much. It is interesting that she does not seem overly concerned with her sister at this point, rather her thoughts appear to be on the house and seeing it destroyed. Some critics have speculated on whether or not Dee was responsible for the fire but there is no direct evidence to support this claim. Given the themes laid forth in the story, it does not seem likely as the author is more focused on relating a story about contrasting ways of living among other things. Adding a criminal element to the story does not seem in line with Dee’s character necessarily but it is nonetheless an interesting question to consider.
The narrator continues in a new paragraph and says that she used to think that Dee hated Maggie just as much as the house, but she admits that it was before, with the help of her church, the narrator raised the money to send Dee to a school in Augusta. After she came back from the school, the narrator says, “She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice.” While for Dee this knowledge was stimulating and useful, in her mother’s opinion it was a “lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know." Again, the theme of contrasts; between rural and sophisticated as well as educated and uneducated become clear. While Dee values education her mother and sister do not and do not even understand why reading would be important since it involves the thoughts of other people who are outside of their direct experience. The clarity of the title “Everyday Use” is apparent; while Dee finds everyday use for her education, to these rural people, it is not useful—hard work is useful and the rest is frivolous.
The narrator of “Everyday Use” says that Dee always wanted nice things and would often stare straight ahead for long periods of time, assumedly thinking about how to get what she desires. “At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.” Certainly, this is quite unlike her mother who knows full well that she is a big-boned woman that is dressed for work, not style and as for her sister Maggie, the narrator says that she will eventually marry John Thomas who has “mossy teeth in an earnest face." These thoughts about the differences between herself and her two daughters leads the narrator to think about her house as she turns to go in and how Dee would criticize this one as well since it too is dilapidated and says that she would not dare bring her friends to it. She remembers the kinds of friends she had brought back during her schooldays and remembered that all the kids were very uptight but who worshipped Dee. She also says that one of these young men deserted her, in part because she was always finding faults with him.
Suddenly, at this point in the plot of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the narrator and Maggie realize that Dee is coming toward the house and instinctively Maggie makes a dash indoors until her mother stops her. Dee’s boyfriend is the first to get out of the car and right behind him comes Dee herself. Both are dressed like hippies (remember this story was written when there were real hippies) and Dee is wearing a dress so loud it hurts [the] eyes” along with a lot of bangles and giant hoop earrings. The narrator notices that her other daughter, Maggie, keeps making an strange sighing sound as she looks upon her sister.