|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|
The boyfriend goes to hug Maggie but Maggie retreats, not used to such interactions while Dee gets a Polaroid camera and takes a picture of her mother and sister in front of the house. In fact, the narrator says, “She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included.” This is strange since she had always hated the house and the reader, at this point, realizes there has been some change in Dee. Just how many changes have happened in Dee are apparent with the dialogue following this paragraph when her mother says her name but Dee corrects her, saying that her name has changed to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” because, as Wangero/Dee states, she couldn’t “bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” This name change was a common movement during the late period of the civil rights movement as African-Americans wanted to find an identity apart from the one white society dictated (even through names).
Dee (who we will refer to as “Wangero” for the rest of this plot summary of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker) has completely taken her mother by surprise with this change and she reminds her daughter that she was named after her aunt, who had been named after her grandmother. In other words, the name Dee could be traced back to slave days. Her boyfriend, Asalamalakim (assumedly that is his changed name) makes sounds in approval as the narrator is stunned but agrees to call her daughter Wangero is that is what she really wants. Her boyfriend refuses to eat the pork as it is unclean and the reader is given this hint that he is a Muslim, which was a popular religious movement that came in the wake of the civil rights movement just as the name changes were.
Throughout dinner Wangero acts as though all of the things she hated growing up such as the wooden benches, butter dishes, and other rough objects are all charming somehow and shows a marked interest in them. Oddly enough, she excitedly asks her mother if she can have the butter churn. The churn was handmade by a relative as were the other objects Wangero seized up around the house. She was taking these things not because she had an “everyday use” for them as her mother did, but rather because she thought they were neat conversation pieces—quaint items that she could decorate her home with. Her mother watches and remembers that tree from her sister’s front yard that these things were made of but makes no comment.
Still rummaging around the house for unique objects she might have once turned her nose up at, Wangero goes to a trunk at the foot of her mother’s bed and pulls out two old quilts. The narrator tells us that these were handed down through a few generations of women and thus were important to the family, especially since some of the pieces of fabric held special meaning such as the piece from her great-grandfather’s civil war uniform. Wangero asks her mother if she can have them and there is a noise heard in the kitchen where Maggie is. The reader is left to assume that Maggie was shocked to hear that her sister wanted these quilts, especially since, as the narrator tells Wangero, they were being saved for Maggie as a wedding gift.