Creating Conflict In Alice Walker's 'Everyday Use'

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Rob MacLennan ENC 1102 R. Gordon 30 September 2012 Comments at end of essay “Everyday Use” is a story that contains characters from similar backgrounds that have different strengths, beliefs, and approaches to life. Alice Walker creates the characters by providing the reader with precise descriptions of Mama, Dee, and Maggie Johnson. Her descriptions allow the reader to know much more about the characters than is actually written, via the reader’s ability to relate the characters to people they know, or to themselves. There are conflicts between characters that are uneducated verses educated, timid verses strong, and ambitious verses content. In the story, Mama Johnson’s oldest, smarter, and pretentious daughter came home from college for…show more content…
In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker uses characterization, rather than events, to create conflict between characters. In, “Everyday Use” a lot of conflict was conveyed that has very little action involved to facilitate it. The personalities of Mama and Dee Johnson were so conflicted that the reader knows they are at odds before any of the stories’ events took place. In the beginning, the reader learned that Mama Johnson enjoyed a clean yard and can, “Kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as any man” (452). She was a simple, strong, traditional type of character, who lived a live of necessity and little pretense. The reader also learned that Maggie, Dee’s little sister, was intimidated by her presence. Maggie was unintelligent, self-conscious, and extremely timid. She was, “Somebody used to never winning anything” who walks, “Chin on chest eyes on ground, feet in shuffle” (457/452). Details like these let the reader know to expect conflict. Before Dee arrived, Mama described Dee as the type of character who wants material things…show more content…
The reader knows that the characters are people who have been raised a particular way and have dispositions toward certain thoughts or behavior. They have personality traits that create conflict even without any action taking place. If there were no butter churn or quilts to fight over in “Everyday Use” we can tell that there would still be conflict. The character descriptions that are given early in the story transition perfectly into the events that unfold and they play out in a way that makes sense. Alice Walker makes great use of characterization and in doing so accomplishes the creation of a family dynamic that is relatable to the

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