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Short Response Assignment: “Everyday Use” and the Film
Overview: One of the major themes in American literature is concerned with the past in shaping characters
in the present and the future. However, for some characters, like Dee, the past is a major conflict, a
stumbling block to progress and modernism. For others like Mrs. Johnson and Maggie, the past is an
indelible patch woven into the very fabric of their everyday lives. .
Directions: Keep body paragraphs to 8-10 sentences. Choose two questions to answer. Each question is
worth 20 points, so carefully plan your written response. You may choose one (1) extra credit question.
Your answers for each question should only be two paragraphs: The first paragraph will begin with a topic
sentence that answers the question for the one literary tool. Then follow the topic sentence with 1-2 context
sentences that explains the answer to the question. Then in the first paragraph introduce the evidence to
prove your answer with one quote of 2-3 sentences with the correct signal phrase. Do not include short
choppy 1-2 word quotes. Follow the quote at the end of the quote/sentence with the correct citation (7)–the
page number, and then follow the citation with 1-2 sentences that explain why your quote supports your
answer to the question that you have your topic sentence. End the first paragraph with a linking sentence
that tells the reader that this same scene in the film supports your response. For the second paragraph
begin with a topic sentence that restates how the film supports your answer. (Refer to the sample of the short
response assignment) Then follow with 1 context sentence that includes an explanation of what film
techniques are used to support your answer to the question. There should only be 1 quote in this second
paragraph–from the film–and this quote is also 2-3 sentences. The citation for the film is (Everyday Use).
In your analysis make sure that you explain how the different film techniques helped to support and to prove
your answer.
Format for the Quotes: There will be only 1 quote per paragraph, not a bunch of 1 word quotes. The quote
from the short story and from the film must be 2-3 sentences. There will be one quote from the short story in
the first body paragraph and the film paragraph will have only 1 quote that is 2-3 sentences. Both quotes
must share the same scene. Format for the assignment is a word document; do not use PDF.
Include the works cited information on the last page of your assignment. (See this at the end of this
Format/Style: Your responses should be typed, double-spaced, and include the number of the question and
the question above the two paragraphs. Make sure to follow the M-context sentence-E-A-L for the
paragraphs. Incorporate sources correctly. Refer to the sample paragraph in the folder.
Questions: Choose two questions—each is worth 20 points. For extra credit–you may choose a third
question; please note on your word document the third question is extra credit. The first 2 questions
you answer will then be the required ones.
1. Theme: The opening scenes and the last scene in both film and literature are extremely important in
establishing and supporting the major theme. In the short story the opening scene is where Mrs. Johnson
and Maggie are sweeping the yard. The last scene returns to the yard. What is significant about the
opening scene and ending scene of both the film and the short story in furthering the theme(s) of the
importance of the past in the present? What does the yard symbolize?
2. Irony is a literary technique by authors to extend meaning and further the theme(s) of the work. Provide
one example of verbal irony from the short story and compare it to how the film dramatizes the irony.
What are the differences and/or, similarities? Does the intended meaning of the irony in the short story
play out in the same way as the film? What purpose does this serve to the theme of “Everyday Use’?
3. Point of View: Both the short story and the film are told from the point of view of Mrs. Johnson. In
what way does the first person point of view help to support the theme? How is Mrs. Johnson connected
to the importance of heritage? How does the film help to establish Mrs. Johnson’s role as the
embodiment of heritage and its importance to the family? Is Mrs. Johnson the same to you in the short
story as in the film?
4. Character: Maggie and Dee look at life differently. The fire at the house left Maggie scarred, outside
and inside. In the film and in the short story, at first, Maggie is portrayed as timid. How does Maggie
change and how does this convey the importance and strength of one’s true heritage? How does the film
make this apparent? What techniques does the film use? How does this relate to the theme?
5. Character: What is significant about Dee taking photographs of her family when she first arrives with
her boyfriend? How does the film lend drama to her attitude toward heritage?
6. Setting: The physical objects in the story are part of setting. What objects (other than the quilts) are
important for the story? What role do they play in developing and supporting the theme? What do these
objects mean to Mrs. Johnson and Maggie and for Dee? How does the film support your answer? How
do the camera angles and music for example support your answer?
7. Character: After reading Alice Walker’s short story and viewing the film, are the characters depicted
In the film like or unlike what you imagined? Mrs. Johnson? Dee? Maggie? What is significant about
these characterization changes to the overall theme? Do the characters in the film seem to fit the setting
of the short story? Do the characters change from the short story to the film, why? What do these changes
represent to the theme?
8. Plot: What specific scene is the climax [the most intense action or point of highest emotional interest] of
the story and the film? Where does it take place? How does the film help bring meaning for you to the
importance of this scene to establishing the theme?
Format/ Due Dates:
Draft: April 18. Bring your draft to class for the peer review. If you do not plan on being in class, you
must send me your draft. This is not turned in. Please format this as word document.
Final Draft: April 23. You may bring your final short response assignment and turn this in on April 20 .
Or….email your final response assignment by April 23. You can also post it on Canvas,
Works Cited
Schwartz, Bruce R. Everyday Use. Perf. Baadja Lyne, Karen ffolkes, and Rachel Luttrell. Films for the
Humanities and Sciences, 2006.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” PDF Handout, 1973, pp. 1-7.
Everyday Use
By Alice Walker
I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday
afternoon. A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. It is
like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand
around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the
elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.
Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners,
homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of
envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a
word the world never learned to say to her.
You’ve no doubt seen those TV shows where the child who has “made it” is confronted,
as a surprise, by her own mother and father, tottering in weakly from backstage. (A pleasant
surprise, of course: What would they do if parent and child came on the show only to curse out
and insult each other?) On TV mother and child embrace and smile into each other’s faces.
Sometimes the mother and father weep, the child wraps them in her arms and leans across the
table to tell how she would not have made it without their help. I have seen these programs.
Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV
program 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 the 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.
In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter
I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. I can kill and clean a hog as
mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather. I can work outside all day, breaking
ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes
steaming from the hog. One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes
with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall. But of course all this
does not show on television. I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds
lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights.
Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue.
But that is a mistake. I know even before I wake up. Who ever knew a Johnson with a
quick tongue? Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye? It seems to me
I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight, with my head fumed in whichever
way is farthest from them. Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation
was no part of her nature.
“How do I look, Mama?” Maggie says, showing just enough of her thin body enveloped
in pink skirt and red blouse for me to know she’s there, almost hidden by the door.
“Come out into the yard,” I say.
Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich
enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the
way my Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever
since the fire that burned the other house to the ground.
Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure. She’s a woman now,
though sometimes I forget. How long ago was it that the other house burned? Ten, twelve years?
Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie’s arms sticking to me, her hair smoking
and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed
open by the flames reflected in them. And Dee. I see her standing off under the sweet gum tree
she used to dig gum out of; a look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray
board of the house fall in toward the red-hot brick chimney. Why don’t you do a dance around
the ashes? I’d wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much.
I used to think she hated Maggie, too. But that was before we raised money, the church
and me, to send her to Augusta to school. 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.
She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t
necessarily need to know. Pressed us to her with the serious way she read, to shove us away at
just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand.
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 for
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.
I never had an education myself. After second grade the school was closed down. Don’t
ask my why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now. Sometimes Maggie reads
to me. She stumbles along good-naturedly but can’t see well. She knows she is not bright. Like
good looks and money, quickness passes her by. She will marry John Thomas (who has mossy
teeth in an earnest face) and then I’ll be free to sit here and I guess just sing church songs to
myself. Although I never was a good singer. Never could carry a tune. I was always better at a
man’s job. I used to love to milk till I was hooked in the side in ’49. Cows are soothing and slow
and don’t bother you, unless you try to milk them the wrong way.
I have deliberately turned my back on the house. It is three rooms, just like the one that
burned, except the roof is tin; they don’t make shingle roofs any more. There are no real
windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not
square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside. This house is in a pasture, too, like
the other one. No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down. 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. Maggie and I thought about this and Maggie asked me, “Mama, when did Dee ever
have any friends?”
She had a few. Furtive boys in pink shirts hanging about on washday after school.
Nervous girls who never laughed. Impressed with her they worshiped the well-turned phrase, the
cute shape, the scalding humor that erupted like bubbles in lye. She read to them.
When she was courting Jimmy T she didn’t have much time to pay to us, but turned all
her faultfinding power on him. He flew to marry a cheap city girl from a family of ignorant
flashy people. She hardly had time to recompose herself.
When she comes I will meet—but there they are!
Maggie attempts to make a dash for the house, in her shuffling way, but I stay her with
my hand. “Come back here,” I say. And she stops and tries to dig a well in the sand with her toe.
It is hard to see them clearly through the strong sun. But even the first glimpse of leg out
of the car tells me it is Dee. Her feet were always neat-looking, as if God himself had shaped
them with a certain style. From the other side of the car comes a short, stocky man. Hair is all
over his head a foot long and hanging from his chin like a kinky mule tail. I hear Maggie suck in
her breath. “Uhnnnh,” is what it sounds like. Like when you see the wriggling end of a snake just
in front of your foot on the road. “Uhnnnh.”
Dee next. A dress down to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my
eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. I feel my whole
face warming from the heat waves it throws out. Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her
shoulders. Bracelets dangling and making noises when she moves her arm up to shake the folds
of the dress out of her armpits. The dress is loose and flows, and as she walks closer, I like it. I
hear Maggie go “Uhnnnh” again. It is her sister’s hair. It stands straight up like the wool on a
sheep. It is black as night and around the edges are two long pigtails that rope about like small
lizards disappearing behind her ears.
“Wa.su.zo.Tean.o!” she says, coming on in that gliding way the dress makes her move.
The short stocky fellow with the hair to his navel is all grinning and he follows up with
“Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!” He moves to hug Maggie but she falls back, right up
against the back of my chair. I feel her trembling there and when I look up I see the perspiration
falling off her chin.
“Don’t get up,” says Dee. Since I am stout it takes something of a push. You can see me
trying to move a second or two before I make it. She turns, showing white heels through her
sandals, and goes back to the car. Out she peeks next with a Polaroid. She stoops down quickly
and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering
behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow
comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house. Then
she puts the Polaroid in the back seat of the car, and comes up and kisses me on the forehead.
Meanwhile Asalamalakim is going through motions with Maggie’s hand. Maggie’s hand
is as limp as a fish, and probably as cold, despite the sweat, and she keeps trying to pull it back.
It looks like Asalamalakim wants to shake hands but wants to do it fancy. Or maybe he don’t
know how people shake hands. Anyhow, he soon gives up on Maggie.
“Well,” I say. “Dee.”
“No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”
“What happened to ‘Dee’?” I wanted to know.
“She’s dead,” Wangero said. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people
who oppress me.”
“You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie,” I said. Dicie is my
sister. She named Dee. We called her “Big Dee” after Dee was born.
“But who was she named after?” asked Wangero.
“I guess after Grandma Dee,” I said.
“And who was she named after?” asked Wangero.
“Her mother,” I said, and saw Wangero was getting tired. “That’s about as far back as I
can trace it,” I said. Though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War
through the branches.
“Well,” said Asalamalakim, “there you are.”
“Uhnnnh,” I heard Maggie say.
“There I was not,” I said, “before ‘Dicie’ cropped up in our family, so why should I try to
trace it that far back?”
He just stood there grinning, looking down on me like somebody inspecting a Model A
car. Every once in a while he and Wangero sent eye signals over my head.
“How do you pronounce this name?” I asked.
“You don’t have to call me by it if you don’t want to,” said Wangero.
“Why shouldn’t 1?” I asked. “If that’s what you want us to call you, we’ll call you.”
“I know it might sound awkward at first,” said Wangero.
“I’ll get used to it,” I said. “Ream it out again.”
Well, soon we got the name out of the way. Asalamalakim had a name twice as long and
three times as hard. After I tripped over it two or three times he told me to just call him Hakim-abarber. I wanted to ask him was he a barber, but I didn’t really think he was, so I didn’t ask.
“You must belong to those beef-cattle peoples down the road,” I said. They said
“Asalamalakim” when they met you, too, but they didn’t shake hands. Always too busy: feeding
the cattle, fixing the fences, putting up salt-lick shelters, throwing down hay. When the white
folks poisoned some of the herd the men stayed up all night with rifles in their hands. I walked a
mile and a half just to see the sight.
Hakim.a.barber said, “I accept some of their doctrines, but farming and raising cattle is
not my style.” (They didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask, whether Wangero (Dee) had really gone and
married him.)
We sat down to eat and right away he said he didn’t eat collards and pork was unclean.
Wangero, though, went on through the chitlins and com bread, the greens and everything else.
She talked a blue streak over the sweet potatoes. Everything delighted her. Even the fact that we
still used the benches her daddy made for the table when we couldn’t effort to buy chairs.
“Oh, Mama!” she cried. Then turned to Hakim.a.barber. “I never knew how lovely these
benches are. You can feel the rump prints,” she said, running her hands underneath her and along
the bench. Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee’s butter dish. “That’s it!”
she said. “I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have.” She jumped up from
the table and went over in the corner where the churn stood, the milk in it crabber by now. She
looked at the churn and looked at it.
“This churn top is what I need,” she said. “Didn’t Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you
all used to have?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Un huh,” she said happily. “And I want the dasher, too.”
“Uncle Buddy whittle that, too?” asked the barber.
Dee (Wangero) looked up at me.
“Aunt Dee’s first husband whittled the dash,” said Maggie so low you almost couldn’t
hear her. “His name was Henry, but they called him Stash.”
“Maggie’s brain is like an elephant’s,” Wangero said, laughing. “I can use the chute top as
a centerpiece for the alcove table,” she said, sliding a plate over the chute, “and I’ll think of
something artistic to do with the dasher.”
When she finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my
hands. You didn’t even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to
make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could
see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was beautiful light yellow wood, from a
tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived.
After dinner Dee (Wangero) went to the trunk at the foot of my bed and started rifling
through it. Maggie hung back in the kitchen over the dishpan. Out came Wangero with two
quilts. They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the
quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them. One was in the Lone Stat pattern. The other was
Walk Around the Mountain. 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, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he
wore in the Civil War.
“Mama,” Wangero said sweet as a bird. “Can I have these old quilts?”
I heard something fall in the kitchen, and a minute later the kitchen door slammed.
“Why don’t you take one or two of the others?” I asked. “These old things was just done
by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died.”
“No,” said Wangero. “I don’t want those. They are stitched around the borders by
“That’ll make them last better,” I said.
“That’s not the point,” said Wangero. “These are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to
wear. She did all this stitching by hand. Imagine!” She held the quilts securely in her arms,
stroking them.
“Some of the pieces, like those lavender ones, come from old clothes her mother handed
down to her,” I said, moving up to touch the quilts. Dee (Wangero) moved back just enough so
that I couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her.
“Imagine!” she breathed again, clutching them closely to her bosom.
“The truth is,” I said, “I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries
John Thomas.”
She gasped like a bee had stung her. “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she said.
“She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”
“I reckon she would,” I said. “God knows I been saving ’em for long enough with nobody
using ’em. I hope she will!” I didn’t want to bring up how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt
when she went away to college. Then she had told they were old-fashioned, out of style.
“But they’re priceless!” she 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!”
“She can always make some more,” I said. “Maggie knows how to quilt.”
Dee (Wangero) looked at me with hatred. “You just will not understand. The point is
these quilts, these quilts!”
“Well,” I said, stumped. “What would you do with them?”
“Hang them,” she said. As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts.
Maggie by now was standing in the door. I could almost hear the sound her feet made as
they scraped over each other.
“She can have them, Mama,” she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or
having anything reserved for her. “I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.”
I looked at her hard. She had filled her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff and gave her
face a kind of dopey, hangdog look. It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to
quilt herself. She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of her skirt. She looked
at her sister with something like fear but she wasn’t mad at her. This was Maggie’s portion. This
was the way she knew God to work.
When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to
the soles of my feet. Just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get
happy and shout. I did something I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her
on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into
Maggie’s lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.
“Take one or two of the others,” I said to Dee.
But she turned without a word and went out to Hakim~a~barber.
“You just don’t understand,” she said, as Maggie and I came out to the car.
“What don’t I understand?” I wanted to know.
“Your heritage,” she said, And then she turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, “You
ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from
the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it.”
She put on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and chin.
Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses. But a real smile, not scared. After we watched
the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just
enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.
Tools for Writing the Short Response Assignment for “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker
Use present tense verbs: “The quilt symbolizes…” “The character Maggie represents…”
SHOW, DON’T TELL. Use quoted material from the short story to support the point you are
making. Make sure that your quote is appropriate— you may use a paraphrase for the film evidence
if this is better.
Does this quote (passage) show what I say it does? There should only be 1 quote in each body
paragraph: 1 quote that includes evidence from the short story (in the first paragraph) and 1 quote
from the film (in the second paragraph). Both quotes must be about the same scene. .
1. Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase: use the character’s name (not the author), and a
present tense verb— Maggie sighs….or Dee exclaims…… Mrs. Johnson says…
2. Include 1 (one quote only in each body paragraph) to support your answer: A 2-3 sentence
quote that will be integrated into your body paragraph, or a block quote of 4-6 sentences. Refer to the
handout that shows how to format a block quote. The evidence for each paragraph should be the
same scene.
3. Cite the quote: Use the page number for the short story (4) and for the film include the title in
italics (Everyday Use).
4. Analyze (A) the quote. After the citation you must explain in 1-2 sentences how the
quote/evidence supports the point you are making in your topic sentence. This applies to both the
short story and the film.
M= The topic sentence should have the answer to the question you have chosen. (no evidence)
C= One context sentence that explains the importance of this question for supporting the theme.
E= Start with one sentence that describes where in the story the quote is coming from. Then insert a
signal phrase + present tense verb, the quote, the citation. Do this for both the short story and the film
evidence. Note: The evidence for the film should describe how the scene that is included in the
first paragraph (the short story) is supported through specific film techniques.
A= Explain in 2-3 sentences how this quote proves and supports the answer to the question you have
chosen. This applies for both the short story and the film evidence.
L= End the first body paragraph that has only the short story evidence with a linking sentence that
includes that the same scene in the film provides visual and verbal support to your response to the
L= End the second paragraph that has only the film evidence to support your answer to the prompt
with 1 sentence that reminds the reader of the importance of this question to the interpretation of the
short story by Alice Walker.
Jessica Jones
Professor Kauffman
English 2 Section 2032
27 April 2022
“Everyday Use,”—SAMPLE Paragraph for the Short Response Assignment
Question 3. Why do you think Maggie easily relinquishes the quilts to her sister? Include two
paragraphs—one that provides evidence from the short story to support your answer and one
paragraph that includes how the scene in the film supports your answer. Include what techniques
the film uses to support your response to the question. Follow the M-context-E-A-L format for
both paragraphs.
The fact that Maggie relinquishes the quilts to her sister is because Maggie knows the real
meaning of how the quilts are connected to her real everyday heritage. In the short story, Maggie tells
her Mama that Dee can have the quilts.
In the climax of the story Mrs. Johnson tells Dee,” The truth is, I
said, I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas. She gasped like a bee
had stung her. ‘Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts’ she said” (6). This scene supports how
The quilts mean a connection to the past and sense of belonging to a sense of community for Mrs.
Johnson and Maggie. However, for Dee, they are simply priceless objects that she wants to display on a
wall. For Maggie, she can give up the quilts because Maggie already possesses this heritage and freely
can give it away. This is ironic and this is the universal or literary intention of the author, Alice Walker.
Thus, the ironic significance of this scene is dramatically put on display in the film and shows the
differences between the two attitudes of heritage thus reinforcing how Mrs. Johnson and Maggie’s
meaning is true and real.
In the film, the differences in meaning of the quilts and thus the meaning of heritage take on a
more dramatic ironic turn. In the film, Dee/Wangero finds the quilts in a trunk, which were stored in
another room of this three room house. The camera angle is a close up shot of Wangero finding the
quilts. The music adds to the overall ironic dramatic tone of this scene. Mrs. Johnson says, “The truth is,
I said, ‘I promised them to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas. ‘She’d probably be backward
enough to put them to everyday use” (Everyday Use). Mrs. Johnson wants Maggie to have the quilts—it
is a family tradition to pass down the quilts as a unifying symbol of family. In the film, Dee’s response to
Mama’s answer is priceless, also. She is outraged and she expresses this with sound and body language.
The camera pulls in closer to emphasize the dramatic irony of Dee wanting more objects. Thus this scene
with Wangero, Mrs. Johnson, and Maggie is showcasing the differences in how people view and treat
heritage in shaping identity. At the end of the film, as well at the end of the short story, the message is
strong about the important role of the quilts as shaping one’s everyday heritage and character.
Works Cited
Schwartz, Bruce R. Everyday Use. Perf. Baadja Lyne, Karen ffolkes, and Rachel Luttrell. Films
for the Humanities and Sciences, 2006. DVD.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Handout, 1973, pp. 1-7.
Farahmand 1
Jonah Farahmand
Professor Kauffman
English 2, Section 2043
April 18, 2022
Everyday Use – Short Response
3. Point of View: Both the short story and the film are told from the point of view of Mrs. Johnson. In
What way does the first person point of view help to support the theme? How is Mrs. Johnson connected
to the importance of heritage? How does the film help to establish Mrs. Jo
hnson’s role as the
embodiment of heritage and its importance to the family? Is Mrs. Johnson the same to you in the short
story as in the film?
The first person point of view of Mrs. Johnson helps support the theme through her
powerful connection to her family heritage. Through Mrs. Johnson’s point of view, the reader is
able to glimpse through her eyes, catching sight of her home, observing her past descendants’
heirlooms, and quilts through her sentiment. Mrs. Johnson states the quilts “…had been pieced by
Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch
and quilted them. One was in the Lone Stat pattern. The other was Walk Around the mountain.
In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago” (5). By
perceiving Mrs. Johnson’s home through her point of view, the reader is not only seeing her
home through her eyes, but also able to hear a more in-depth history about the heirlooms and
quilts displayed within her home. This, in turn, allows for a better understanding of their family
heritage, developing a stronger backbone for the ensuing theme. Furthermore, Mrs. Johnson in
the Everyday Use film embodies a similar interpretation of the importance of family heritage in
this same scene.
Next, the film is able to establish Mrs. Johnson’s strong embodiment of heritage through
her emotions, rather than her side thoughts. The film expresses her feelings upon the family
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heritage in ways the original short story can’t; through her tone, expressions, and gestures. At the
climax of the film, Maggie overhears Dee arguing to convince Mrs. Johnson to let her to keep
her ancestors quilts. Maggie says, “She can have them mama, I can remember grandma Dee
without these quilts.” (Everyday Use). It is at this moment that Mrs. Johnson’s emotions towards
this statement are expressed through no dialogue and only staging. Mrs. Johnson, without a
word, walks over with a heartfelt expression hugging Maggie. This expresses Mrs. Johnson’s
strong care for the importance of carrying on the tradition of family heritages by the gesture of
handing over the quilts to Maggie. Mrs. Johnson does this because she fully understands that
Maggie is aware of the importance of family traditions, whilst also displaying full maturity when
offering to hand over the quilts to Dee. Mrs. Johnson is the same person in both the original short
story and film, but her way of conveying the ultimate theme differs from a first person point of
view, compared to physical actions.
5. Character: What is significant about Dee taking photographs of her family when she first
arrives with her boyfriends? How does the film lend drama to her attitude towards heritage?
It is significant when Dee takes pictures with her polaroid because they reflect her
attitude towards heritage, as well as foreshadow her views on how she sees her family
throughout the rest of the short story. Once Dee arrives at her childhood home, she exits the car,
immediately pulling out a polaroid to capture the moment. Mrs. Johnson describes, “She stoops
down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with
Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included.
When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the
house” (3). Mrs. Johnson’s dialogue sets up the initial understanding how Dee disrespects her
familys heritage, through stating the specifics of how this precise photo is captured. These small
details of how the photo is taken, show Dee is more worried about whats included in the
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surrounding details of the photo rather than her family. Dee is extremely cautious to include
specific details within each photo she takes, as if she is almost trying to script each photo. These
photos are taken with no intention of trying to have a picture of both Mrs. Johnson, and Maggie
to view later on, but rather in order for Dee to be able to remember her rural beginnings of her
poor past lifestyle. Dee then quickly puts away her camera, with no further purpose to capture
any more pictures of her family members. This attitude of Dee’s carelessness towards her family
foreshadows her irresponsibility and inadequate reasoning of why she argued to keep her
ancestors quilts. That being said, the film Everyday Use implements additional elements to
emphasize Dee’s disregard for her heritage.
In this way, the film is able to add onto the drama of Dee’s outlook upon her family, by
adding additional commentary, and action towards this specific scene. The film during this scene
takes a less orthadox course of including additional dialogue, and scripting. Dee asks Maggie,
and Mrs Johnson to, “Get closer together,” eventually taking numerous pictures asking for,
“…another one with the house behind” (Everyday Use). Dee’s photography finally ends as she
immediately, like the original, puts the polaroid back in the car she came in. Everyday Use
continues to portray the same reasoning behind why Dee takes these pictures of her mother and
sister including small details, like their home. Through the film’s supplementary commentary,
and actions added, Dee’s true intentions are emphasized, that she has very little care for her
family. It is within these subtle comments included in the film that build on the drama towards
Dee’s attitude on her family’s heritage, ultimately applying further emphasis, that Dee doesn’t
care for her bloodline, but rather instead solely herself.
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Works Cited
Schwartz, Bruce R. Everyday Use. Perf, Baadja Lyne, Karen ffolkes, and Rachel Luttrell. Films
For the Humanities and Sciences, 2006. DVD.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Handout, 1973, pp. 1-7.

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