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January 30, 2012

Alice Walker - Generational Conflict in *Everyday Use*


Image Source:http://img.timeinc.net/time/2002/bhm/history/images/walker.jpg

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Students of 2008,

If you are submitting to this blog post for your final exam, remember to add a few comments (after a line separator) at the END of your entry after the works cited (should be the FINAL, not first, revision of your term paper) explaining why this post was one of the most appropriate to your paper's topic/thesis. Don't forget that you need to do this for two blog entries and you need to submit a paragraph informing me of which two blog entries you submitted to and an explanation why to turnitin.com. All of these steps need to be completed to get credit for the final exam.

Good luck,

Dr. Hobbs

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." ~ William Butler Yeats

Posted by lhobbs at January 30, 2012 11:59 PM

Readers' Comments:

Yichuan Sun
Professor: Professor Hobbs
EL 267 America Lit.
April 30, 2008

The Nature and Culture Influence in Novel
Reading a good novel is a very good journey. The journey is not only follow the characters’ trip in the novel, but also the readers need to feel the characters’ sprint, their emotion and their personal development. All the things that have the meaning in the story are the nature. Nature could be humans, things, the environment, and everything else that could influence the story. In “Everyday Use” and Everything is Illuminated the nature and culture greatly influence the characters and changed their personal value.
Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a story that confronts us with three characters (mother and two daughters) with different opinion about how to deal with their grandmother’s remnant. And it’s actually the conflicting ideas about their identities and ancestry. The way they think about the grandmother’s quilt actually shows their different personal value.
The mother narrates the story of the day one daughter, Dee, visits from college and clashes with the other daughter, Maggie, over the possession of some heirloom quilts. We can easily find the mother and the younger daughter, Maggie are represent the old traditional black women, while the older daughter Dee who had became really different from them. Through describe the complete difference mother and daughter; I think the culture influence which is the “nature” outside that makes this happen.

The theme centers on Mama’s awakening of one daughter’s superficiality and to the other’s deep-seated understanding of heritage. Dee has a total different understanding of the meaning of the heritage from her mom and sister, Walker describe her as a selfish and arrogant woman, but what makes her has so much difference with her sister and mom. Dee left her small country home town and went to the college. Her college experience completely changed her. She got the education from the school that her mother and sister never got and met a lot of people from the different background such as her boy friend. Those things that changed her personal value are the nature and the culture.
Alice published “Everyday Use” in 1973 which was a time that black culture in the heyday, the Afro hairstyle was in fashion and Blacks were seeking their cultural roots in Africa. At the same time, black’ culture get violent strike form the white culture in U.S.A. Dee is a typical black girl which actually been influenced by the white culture. Walker described Dee’s movements when she was determined to take the quilts show how she is an ego girl. “She held the quilts securely in her arms, stroking them;”
In this story, Walker use grandmother’s quilts symbolized as the traditional African American black culture heritages, which Dee’s selfish make she does not understand. “Dee moved back just enough so that I couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her.” (Walker 6) In Dee’s mind the quilts is just quilts which only should account its financial and aesthetic value.
The white culture completely changed Dee to another girl, because she went to the college before. The “Nature” which is the outside world around her changed everything, the outside world is a world which with full of the white culture. Mum and Maggie doesn’t want be changed by the outside they want themselves just to adopt the pure Africa American culture heritage like they trying to save their grandmother’s quilt. Compared with her sister Maggie is a pure, kind, timid and even innocent black girl. She enjoyed live with her family like the tradition things, in her mind the quilts themselves, as art, are inseparable from the culture they arose from. In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece . . . that was from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War." (Walker 6) The quilts means the history of the family. That’s also the “nature” influence her family and the family’s culture make her become such a girl like this she think the quilts is not just quilts which should account its emotional value. Obviously, Walker thinks the pure and traditional culture is right. Culture must be put into “Everyday use” situation to keep it alive and active.
In Everything is Illuminated that written by Jonathan Safran Foer, in this story, the culture conflict is basically shown on the outside world and the environment. The story about the Everything is illuminated is about a young American writer Jonathan who travelled to Ukraine in 1998 and trying to find his grandfather’s life in there. He wants to find a women who saved his grandfather’s life from the Nazis and his grandfather’s hometown – Tachimbrod.
The journey of the story is the way that three main characters trying to find that village are also the journey in their mind and spirit world, their memories and themselves. There are three main characters in this book which are Jonathan, Alex and Alex’s grandpa also named Alex and named Eli before the war.
Alex’s Jonathan’s guide throughout his trip to Ukraine he is completely different with his family like his dad and grandpa. Alex is deeply influenced by the U.S.A and western culture. His language, his clothes and his jewelry are all like a fashion U.S.A young people. Ukraine used to be a really traditional and conservative country because it’s used to a part of Soviet Union. But the nature environment around them is start being changed. U.S culture has come to everywhere. Alex spoke hilariously incorrect English and he’s proud of it. The nature make Alex try his best and do whatever he can to be a U.S people, but the first U.S. young people he now which is Jonathan, actually is not like he imagine. Jonathan is such a traditional American writer, if we didn’t heard what they said, maybe we will confused the country Alex and Jonathan come from.
In the book we can see Alex is the same age with Jonathan. They are both 20 years old and the nature they live made this country influence to them and turn Alex like a American hippy and Jonathan like a traditional Ukraine people.
In their journey, memory is very important thing that be a nature to influence them, especially for the grandfather, on the way they are travelling ,his memories are also have a trip make him back to the War, his memory are full of pain and conflict, he refused to acknowledge them at the first, but in the end, the journey changed him, the nature helped him to face the foretime and the sin he made in the war, at the last part of the book with the grandfather’s death, we can say grandfather find the peace and himself.
Alex’s journey is a way to find himself, growing and become mature. Alex is a person like lost himself at the very beginning of the story. He is trying to make himself like an American young people, but actually he does not know what he want, but things being changed when Alex start writing. At first Alex writes exaggerates wildly, but he becomes honest in the end, with writing he is able to be honest with himself about his life--and stand up to Father.
In the end of the book, Alex’s grandfather finally called him Alex which he usually called him Sasha. That means the grandfather approved Alex’s growth, he thought Alex is now a man like himself in young age. That means Alex successfully proved himself. The nature influence is their journey completed changed them, and make them growth, find themselves or face the sin.


Works Cited
Safran Foer, Jonathan. Everything is Illuminated. New York: Harper Perennial, 2002.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” 1973. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry,
Drama,and Writing. Eds. Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia. 5th Compact Ed. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2006.

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This paper is submitted to Alice Walker's Blog because in the paper I analysis the culture shock which Alice talk about in "Everyday Use"

Posted by: Yichuan Sun at April 30, 2008 11:20 PM

Chris King
EL 267
Dr. Hobbs
30 April 2008
Organized Religion vs. Personal Belief Systems in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated” and Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”
In Jonathans Safran Foer’s novel “Everything is Illuminated” and Alice Walkers’s short story “Everyday Use”, religion is a central theme. By comparing the religion in each story, to one’s own religion, it is possible to not only see the differences, but also that even those who do not practice an organized religion are practicing their own beliefs in their own way.
Jonathan’s Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated” is broken up into three different sections. The first section is Jonathan’s interpretation of the family’s history. Second section is Alex’s interpretation of the trip in present day. The third section describes with the letters in which the two boys sent back and forth between one another. Within the story line, Jonathan is attempting to research his Grandfather’s life while in the Ukraine. This young Jewish-American is searching to find his grandfather's shtetl, Trachimbrod. He has but only a name, a map, and some photographs. The name, Augustine, is said to be the name of a person who rescued and saved his grandfather from the Nazis during the holocaust. Within the Ukraine, Jonathon acquires a guide named Alex. Their driver is Alex’s grandfather (who claims to be blind, but isn’t). Also tagging along for the trip is grandfather’s seeing-eye dog, Sammy Davis, junior, junior. (Foer, Everything is Illuminated)
Obviously religion is correlated with the holocaust. In a beginning chapter of Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated religion is used when saying that the shtetl is divided into two sections, the Jewish Quarter and the Human Three-Quarters (Foer’s Everything is Illuminated). The Jewish Quarter is associated with being sacred, whereas, the Human Quarter is secular. While I am not Jewish, I do see that there is a fine line being split between the two sections of the shtetl. Each is stereotyped into being either religious (sacred) or not religious (secular).
Within the synagogue of the shtetl, people pray to God through shouting (Foer’s, Everything is Illuminated). This isn’t typical of anything I am used to within religion, and doesn’t seem to be the norm of the Jewish faith either. Suprizingly this tradition is two hundred years old within the shtetl. The townspeople also developed a tradition of hanging from the ceiling while in prayer. They clung to a rope with one hand and clutched a prayer book with the other in an attempt to be closer with God. Their faith is tested one time through a fly’s annoyance in the synagogue. The fly tickled the men while they hung from the ropes. Most of them passed this test by letting go of the rope instead of letting go of the prayer book proving their dedication to their God and not letting go of his word. They continued this tradition annually and these are the people who stayed to pray at the synagogue, known as the Upright synagogue members. There were, however, people who did let go of the prayer book instead of the rope for fear of falling. They chose to believe in the “flesh” of themselves rather than to believe that the holy word of God would save them. For this reason, they become known as Slouchers and these people had to wear sewed fringes on their sleeves to remind them of their disappointing non-faith. It was at this point where the two different congregations began to split becoming more and more different. The Upright congregation retained a sacred sense, whereas, the Slouchers developed a secular sense of everything. The two groups leave each other alone except when they struggle to push the Upright Synagogue, which is on wheels, further toward either the Jewish Quarter or the Human Three-Quarters (Foer’s, Everything is Illuminated).
I feel as though the Slouchers really did not trust in the religion that they had once believed in. I pondered why such people of faith would not feel safe in the mists of a God they worship. In my beliefs of Christianity, what God says and commands will be done if it is his will. In Judaism, the beliefs are of God not Jesus Christ (Religious Facts). If it is his will, whether in Judaism or Christianity, God will provide you help where it is asked for. If these Slouchers believed that God would save them no matter what, then why did they let go of the prayer book and not the rope? Also, after they “sinned” against God by not obeying, would they not try and repent for their sins rather than accept the fate of being “Slouchers” for the rest of their lives?
Women up to this point were not allowed in the synagogue, however, this changed temporarily. In 1763, the congregation tried to implement a compromise hoping to allow women into the synagogue. For a time it worked, however, as the women looked up from the basement, through the glass floor, the men became distracted. Again, the women were banned from the synagogue except for looking through a hole in the wall from the outside (Foer’s, Everything is Illuminated).
I find it interesting that the women are banned from the synagogue this late in history. Definitely in early times of the world, women were not allowed to do such things and even in present day, women are still being restricted in many ways, but I would think that women of this time would be allowed to venture into the synagogue if they so desired. Perhaps the reason is due to the Holocaust being currently prominent. This would defiantly alter views and actions taken in this era of time.
I feel that Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated” houses many religious conflicts and meanings. The two groups mentioned are starting to form the believers and non-believers of religion. The Upright congregation is confident in their beliefs, as they have always been, whereas, the Slouchers have chosen the path of a non-belief, for they have not been able to keep full faith. This is hard to comprehend. If at one time the Slouchers believed in God and happened to make a mistake, “sinning” against him, would they not be forgiven with repentance (as is typical of religion)? It seems they believe that there is no forgiveness and also that they are inferior to Godliness. It is also interesting how all of the townspeople are Jewish and should share the same beliefs, but they don’t, they are split by religion rather than by a faith-based belief.
While talking to Jonathon through letters, Alex develops an impression of Jonathan. He has seen the pictures of Jews from the holocaust and has seen Americans in magazines. Alex feels confident in picking Jonathan out of a crowd, fast. However, Alex finds that the Jewish American traits he was expecting were sadly incorrect. Jonathan is not but a simple, normal looking person; A typical American. Alex, for some reason, associated holocaust pictures with Jonathan’s appearance even though it is of a different time era and the holocaust happened many years prior (Foer’s, Everything is Illuminated). I find it interesting that Alex would make such a bold, solid image in his mind before meeting Jonathan. I feel as though people use religion or religious views in making assumptions about other people. As minute as this one is, it still carries a pretty deep meaning into Alex’s original view of Jews and how he portrayed them in his head.
Does not possessing any religious views affect your life style and situations that are encountered? The family (mother and two daughters) doesn’t seem to share any organized religious views, which could be considered as a religious view in itself. I have always been reinforced with Christianity views, but I think this family’s nonreligious views impacts their lives negatively compared to how it may if they did have religious views.
Within Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use”, the family really does not possess any real organized religious beliefs, which I think to be a belief in itself. Before the oldest daughter, Dee, comes home to visit from college, the younger daughter, Maggie, and the mother are living their lives without religious beliefs. Dee finally arrives home from college to visit her family. With her is her current boyfriend at the time, Asalamalskin (Walker’s Everyday Use). I feel that from a Christianity sense, Dee does not find any wrong in how she acts with this boyfriend. The story line doesn’t outline their relationship in-depth, but they seem fine and very suited together, but how far does that go? I wonder if they are looking for marriage in the future. Also, I wonder, in a Christianity sense, if they have performed this relationship according to those laws of God or not? Abstinence is a big deal with relationships and religion. Are they abiding by this rule of God? Through actions of the story, I feel they have not and I feel that this hurts their relationship. Already, mom is not thrilled about the new boyfriend coming to visit (Walkers, Everyday Use). Perhaps this is due to a religious view, but sadly, it probably is not.
Towards the end of the story, the two sisters begin to fight over some quilts that the mother has. The oldest daughter wants them for herself and doesn’t think about her younger sister. Maggie, however, wants the quilts, but is not up to fighting about it. The mother finally decided that Maggie deserves the quilts rather than Dee (Walker’s, Everyday Use). I feel that the mother has really “played God” in this situation. She ultimately made the decision changing everyone’s life, as minute as it may seem. I also feel that if they were a Christian family, the decision would have been easier to make and would not have had so much arguing involved.
The family relationship, in general, does not seem very understanding, forgiving, or even close. The older sister is a cast away, which could be because she is a college student not living at home. However, I feel that if the family shared a common background, like religion (Christianity in particular), then they would be more appreciative, understanding, and compassionate towards one another.
In my experience, typically Christians and family of the same, show more love and compassion than those who are not. It is in this that I see more reason to be religious rather than not. Simply because it seems to make situations turn out for the better rather than for the worse. People of a religious background house one commonality between one another, religion. In Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated”, the Jewish faith would be the common ground of Jonathan’s life, whereas, the family in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” shares a common ground by not housing any religious views. Jonathon found himself believing in Judaism, whereas, Alex and his grandfather did not share a religion. Alex and his grandfather were not as modest, loving, kind, or polite in any sense. Because of this, I feel that they are not any of those words because they do not have religious views. Likewise, if the family from “Everyday Use” held a religious view, the family may be more kind to one another. Religion is something that both, or all parties can contribute to, whether the persons believe the same morals, idea, or beliefs. Each is to their own, as it should be, but it is what a person chooses and what they do with their decisions that make the difference.


Works Cited
Religion Facts. 2008. "Christian Holidays." ReligionFacts. 8 February 2007. [from "Updated:" on the left of the article] Accessed 8 December 2007 [date you accessed the article] .>
Foer, Jonathan Safran. "Everything is Illuminated ." New York: Hougnton Mifflin Company, 2002.
Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use ." n.d.

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This paper is placed under Alice Walker's Blog because in this paper I analyzed Religious views within her short story, "Everyday Use".

Posted by: Chris King at May 1, 2008 12:03 PM

Melissa Lingsch Lingsch 1

Dr. Hobbs

EL 267.01- American Lit 1915- Present

25 April 2008

We Are Living In a Material World:
A look at materialism in The Lottery and Everyday Use

In today’s society people are very materialistic. They always want the nicest, newest things, or even something vintage, just to say that they have something someone else doesn’t have. They are greedy people who care more about objects and materialistic things than the people they hurt while trying to get what they want. This also happens in literature. In the two short stories, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and Everyday Use by Alice Walker, there is a representation of materialism in the characters. The characters represent materialism through their actions, by caring more about themselves than others, and by flaunting their material things over others to try to seem better than them. Exploring the differences and similarities in these stories will help show how the representation of materialism affects characters in literature. There will also be examples from the major motion picture, Mean Girls, to parallel materialism in film and help support provided examples from the texts.
The Lottery was written in 1948, Everyday Use was written in 1973, and Mean Girls hit the theaters in 2004. These pieces were all produced about 30 years apart and they all have a common ground that links them together; they all have representation of materialism. This proves that this is not a recent issue, but one that has been present in literature, film, and life for a very long time. Each piece gives the reader/viewer insight to what materialism is and how it affects characters.
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In The Lottery, one may think that there is no representation of materialism, that it is simply a short story about a town that sacrifices a member of their community each year and that’s that. If one closer, there is an underlying representation of materialism. Think about it, each person is so obsessed with not being chosen to be sacrificed in the lottery that they disregard any thought of what may happen to their family members, friends, and neighbors, if they get chosen for the lottery. In a way, each person becomes a living representation of materialism, with their life as the object that they become so greedy to keep. The town as whole is very materialistic in that sense. They have something that the person who is chosen by the lottery doesn’t have anymore; they have the chance to keep living.
During the lottery, everyone in the town becomes very selfish and paranoid. When her husband didn’t draw exactly how she wanted, Tessie Hutchinson turns from a caring mother to a self-absorbed, materialistic character. “Suddenly. Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers. “You didn’t give him enough time to take the paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair.” (Jackson 5) Then, when it turns out that it is Tessie that has been chosen to lay her life down by the lottery, it is clear that the people in the town no longer care about their once fellow community member. They become exhilarated that they have something she doesn’t, they still have their lives. They become so materialistic about keeping their lives and killing her so that they can do so, someone even hands Tessie’s son a pebble to throw at his own mother. “They sill remembered to use the stones...And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles. Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space...A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.” (Jackson 7) The people in the village
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clearly did not care about what was going to happen to Tessie Hutchinson. In fact, they stoned her to death, but to them it didn’t matter what happened to her as long as they still had their lives.
This part of The Lottery was similar to a part in the movie, Mean Girls. The main character, Cady, was upset that the other character, Regina, was dangling her boyfriend, Aaron, over Cady. Regina was treating Aaron like an object and making Cady jealous that she didn’t have him for herself. So, in Cady’s mind, a scenario played out where the people around them acted like animals as she “fought” Regina to gain possession of Aaron. In both scenarios, from The Lottery and Mean Girls, the characters are acting very primitive to fight for what they want; and in each case the materialistic possession that each character wants to obtain is a life.
Another example for the movie Mean Girls is when Regina takes Cady to her house for the first time. They pull up in Regina’s Lexus in front of a huge mansion. Cady says something along the lines of your house is really nice and Regina responds, “I know, right?” Regina then shows Cady her room and says, “This used to be my parent’s bedroom, but it wasn’t big enough, so I made them switch rooms with me.” The materialism represented in the character of Regina reminded me of the Everyday Use character of Dee, also known as Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Both of which are very materialist and try to take advantage of their parents to gain material possessions.
In Everyday Use, the mother’s memories and thoughts clue in the audience about how materialistic Dee is, well before her character is introduced. Dee was always the beauty of the family, always trying to dress in the best outfits and look perfect; while her sister Maggie, and even her mother, feel inferior to her. They spend the whole day trying to tidy up the house, and even the yard, to make it look good enough to pass Dee’s inspection. “How do I look, Mama?”
Lingsch 4
Maggie says, showing me just enough of her thin body enveloped in pink skirt and red blouse...” (Walker 1) Maggie even puts on a nice outfit to try to impress her sister. The mother continues to
think about Dee, letting the audience learn even more about Dee. “Dee wanted nice things” and “She wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends.” (Walker 2) Dee cares so much about material possession and what others think that she refuses to bring any friends home because she is embarrassed by her mother’s humble abode. So, when she arrives to visit, it’s a bit of a surprise that she has brought her “husband” with her. Soon it is evident though, she came to show off her things, her new clothes, jewelry and man. Dee got out of the car wearing “A dress down to the ground...earrings gold, too...bracelets dangling...” (Walker 3)
Throughout the visit, Dee and Asalamalakim continue to make Maggie and the mother feel insignificant through their actions and comments, but the straw that breaks the camels back is when Dee asks for the quilt. “After dinner Dee (Wanegro) went to the trunk at the foot of my bed and started rifling through it...Out came Wanegro with two quilts...Mama,” Wanergo (Dee) said sweet as a bird. “Can I have these old quilts?” (Walker 6) The mother explains that she was going to give those quilts to Maggie and that doesn’t go over too well. “But they’re priceless!” she (Dee) was saying now, furiously; for she has a temper. “Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that!” Dee was not going to use the quilts her mother and grandmother made for their practical use, as blankets; but, she was going to hang them in her house to show off. She would have something that none of her friends had and she was going to flaunt the quilts in front of them. She didn’t want the quilts for the same reason Maggie wanted them. Maggie would treasure them as a family heirloom while Dee would use
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treat them as just another materialistic possession to show her friends. The mother refuses to give them to Dee and she leaves. Dee being sneaky and coming to visit her mother only for material
gain shows how her character represents materialism. She didn’t care seeing her mother, or if the quilts already belonged to Maggie; she came for a purpose and left when she didn’t receive anything.
During Everyday Use, the mother has hopes that Dee has changed and comes to see them because she wants to, but she ultimately realizes that Dee was still the same materialistic person she has been her whole life. The same can be said in The Lottery. These people have had the tradition of the lottery for so many years that they probably will never be able to change. It’s almost like it’s in their DNA, to the point where their children are born to be these little materialistic beings who are only concerned with their lives and nothing else. It’s like materialism is an epidemic that only gets worse with time. That is very evident in the character of Dee. Her case has gotten worse over time.
All of the examples in this paper tie together to show the representation of materialism in characters in literature and film. They also show that materialism has been as issue in American for many years that only seems to be getting worse; to the point that the representation of materialism floods over into pure forms, such as novels and short stories. Hopefully, people will learn to look inside themselves and realize that it’s the people in life, family and friends, that matter; not the materialistic things.


Works Cited
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. 1948.
Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters. Perf. Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. DVD. Paramount
Pictures, 2004.
Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. 1973.
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I also put my paper under the category of Alice Walker, General Conflict- “Everyday Use”. The reason why I chose to submit this analysis under this specific category is because Alice Walker’s piece “Everyday Use” is one I focused on in my paper. This analysis helps to provide evidence to the reader of Walker’s use of representing materialism in the form of the character Dee. Also, Dee’s materialism causes a general conflict within their family structure and they way they act together.

Posted by: Melissa Lingsch at May 1, 2008 05:03 PM

Shayla Sorrells
American Literature 1915- Present
Dr. Hobbs
29, April 2008

Relative Chaos: The Representation of Dysfunctional Families in Literature
In society today, many people are considered to come from broken or dysfunctional homes. A dysfunctional family is defined as a family, in which conflict, misbehavior and even abuse on the part of individual members of the family occur continually, leading other members to accommodate such actions. (www. k-state.edu/counseling/topics/relationships/dysfunc.htm). Dysfunctional families are not only seen in everyday life, but are also found on TV. shows and movies as well. What many people do not realize is, dysfunctional families are also represented in popular literature. Two prime examples of this would be in August Wilson’s play Fences and Alice Walkers short story Everyday Use. In both of these works of literature, each family displays certain characteristics that eventually allow the reader to recognize that the family is dysfunctional. In both Fences and Everyday Use the portrayal of dysfunctional families is the most realistic representation of reality.
In August Wilson’s Fences, the Maxson family is a true illustration of a broken family. Characteristics such as torn father and son relationships, extramarital affairs, jealousy and bitterness are what cause so much turmoil between the characters. Troy Maxson, the main character is the root for all the drama. As a child Troy was abandoned by his mother, and raised by his father. His father never really gave him the love and approval that he needed when he was young. In fact they constantly fought with each other. There is one example in the text where Troy is having a conversation with Bono and Lyons and he tells them about an incident that made him see his father in a new light. “Now it was my turn to run him off. I picked up them same reins that he had used on me. I picked up them reins and commenced to whupping on him. The gal jumped up and run off.... and when my daddy turned to face me, I could see why the devil had never come to get him... cause he was the devil himself. I don’t know what happened. When I woke up, I was laying right there by the creek and Blue... this old dog we had... was licking my face. I couldn’t see nothing.” (Wilson p.52). After Troy had snuck off with a girl, his father caught him and whipped him so badly his eyes were swollen shut. After this he decided to leave his fathers house and live on his own.
A few years later Troy became a father himself but he did not choose to become a different man than his father was. He was incarcerated for most of his oldest son Lyons childhood, causing him to be raised by his mother. Although he was there for his son Corey’s upbringing, he treated both of his sons the same. He never gave them any approval for career choices. He also never expressed his love for them. He constantly criticized their decisions instead of being proud of them. He disagrees with Lyons decision to be a jazz musician and is especially hard on Corey He feels that Corey should not play college football but should focus on school and work instead. The underlying reason that Troy does not want Corey to be recruited is because he was rejected from playing professional baseball. He believes that if he never had a chance to play, Corey should not either. Corey could always feel the tension between them and one day asked why Troy never liked him. As the play progresses, Troy and Corey’s relationship only gets worse and they begin to get into physical confrontations just as Troy and his father did years ago. Once Troy died Corey felt bitterness and resentment towards his father and refused to attend his funeral. “The whole time I was growing up... living in his house... Papa was like a shadow that followed you everywhere. It weighed on you and sunk into your flesh. It would wrap around you and lay there until you couldn’t tell which one was you anymore. That shadow digging in your flesh. Trying to crawl in. Trying to live through you. Everywhere I looked, Troy Maxson was staring back at me ... hiding under the bed...in the closet. I’m saying I’ve got to find a way to get rid of his shadow, Mama.” (Wilson p.97). After he has a long talk with Rose, he decides to pay respect to his late father.
Troy’s extramarital affair with a woman named Alberta was another factor that drove his family away from him. He continually sees this woman behind Rose’s back, despite the warnings from his best friend Bono. Troy feels that he does not need to tell Rose about the affair and thinks that he can have his cake and eat it too. Soon he learns that Alberta is pregnant and has no choice but to tell Rose the truth. When she finds this out she is devastated to learn that after eighteen years of marriage Troy has been unfaithful. He fails to see that he has deeply hurt his wife. To make matters worse, his mistress Alberta died while giving birth to their daughter. He soon comes to Rose and asks if she would raise the baby. She said yes out of the kindness of her heart but told Troy “Okay Troy... you’re right, I’ll take care of your baby for you...cause like you say...she’s innocent... and you can’t visit the sins of the father upon the child. A motherless child has got a hard time. From right now...this child got a mother. But you a womanless man” (Wilson p. 79).Rose had completely stopped speaking to Troy after that moment. He and Corey are no longer speaking as well. He was basically alone in his own home.
The choices Troy made caused his family so much anguish that toward the end of his life, he had no one. Because of his decision to have an affair, he pushed his wife, the one person who loved him unconditionally, away from him. He put his best friend in a tough position because he knew of the affair and did not want to take sides or see Rose get hurt. Eventually he lost his mistress to difficulties during childbirth. If he had of chosen to be a better father to his sons, maybe they could have had closer relationships. If he had of given Corey the encouragement he truly needed, Corey would have never felt that sense of bitterness and hatred toward his father. Troy could have very well chosen to be a different father to his children but he never broke the cycle. Had things gone differently, his family members would not have had so many negative memories of Troy when he died.
In Alice Walker’s Everyday Use sibling rivalry, being ashamed of family circumstances, and inheritance of precious family heirlooms are what conflict this family. The main character Mama, is the single mother of two daughters and has tried to raise them to the best of her ability. Her two daughters Dee and Maggie have two extremely different personalities. “Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a T.V. show of this sort. Out of a dark and soft- seated limousine I am ushered into a bright room filled with many people. There I meet a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson who shakes my hand and tells me what a fine girl I have. Then we are on stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers” (Walker p.1). From just this brief description, the reader can automatically realize that Dee is more extravagant than her family members. Dee is the older sibling and is very attractive. “Dee is lighter that Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure. She is a woman now, though sometimes I forget” (Walker p. 2) She is also very intelligent and intellectual. Maggie on the other hand is less attractive, has burns on her body and is slower than her older sister. “ She will stand hopelessly in the corners homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life in the palm of one hand, that no is a word the world never learned to say to her” (Walker p. 1). Although it is never verbally expressed, Dee has always felt she was better than Maggie and Maggie has always been somewhat envious of Dee, which cause a slight sibling rivalry between the two.
Because Dee has always been so beautiful and smart she has felt that she was better than her family members. She was educated, knew how to read very well and was probably the first person in her family to attend college. Her mother only had a second grade education and Maggie was not as bright so she did not finish school either. Dee obviously felt ashamed of her two uneducated relatives and felt ashamed of the fact that they lived in poverty. Mama mentions a few times throughout the story that Dee wanted finer things in life. Things that her mother could not afford to give to her. “Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she’d made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker or minutes at a time. Often I fought off the temptation to shake her. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was” (Walker p.2). Mama knew that Dee was ashamed of the way they lived and this bothered her. Dee never realized that her mother worked hard to give her the things she wanted. She simply looked down on her family.
Soon Dee returns with a new identity and a new boyfriend. She no longer wanted to be called Dee, but preferred being called Wangero. She believed that Dee was a slave name given by “the white man”. She failed to see the symbolic meaning behind her name. She constantly made sly remarks about her sister and her mother as is they were beneath her. She also had her sights set on taking two quilts that had been sewn by her grandmother. These were family heirlooms that Mama had promised to Maggie after Dee had previously called them old fashioned. She told her mother that Maggie would never learn to appreciate the historical value of the quilts the way she did. This left Mama feeling torn between her two daughters. Although Maggie eventually said Dee could have the quilts, for the first time Mama did not allow Dee to have her way. Dee’s selfish ways and arrogance were the main causes for her family’s problems. If she had of just taken the time to appreciate what she had, she would have had a better understanding of her family and their heritage.
Each of the families in these stories had their own issues. Towards the end of each story, these issues were never really resolved. The main cause of the problems between the families was basically selfishness. The representation of family issues in each of these stories is very realistic. As the reader reads on they may be able to identify certain members of their own family.

Works Cited
Walker, Alice “Everyday Use”1973. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. Eds. Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia. 5th Compact Ed. New York Pearson- Longman, 2006.
Wilson, August “Fences” Penguin Books USA Inc. C. 1986
“Dysfunctional Families: How to Overcome the Affects” April 23, 2008
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I have chosen to put my paper under the Alice Walker Generational Conflict in Everyday Use as well. I felt that it was very appropriate because not only did I focus my paper on Alice Walkers short story, but I did mention a bit of the generational conflict in it as well. Dee’s generational conflict caused a lot of turmoil and chaos between her family members. It caused her to feel as if she was better than her family members and in the end caused her mother to choose between her two daughters. This allows the reader to see that her differences caused her family to be dysfunctional.

Posted by: Shayla Sorrells at May 1, 2008 08:27 PM

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*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment. ~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at May 6, 2008 10:51 AM

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