Walker’s characters stand out in the novel Everyday Use, in part because of her wits in struggling for her family’s heritage. The story takes place in the late 1960s, after a period of dramatic change for African Americans. African Americans gained their freedom from resistance, overcoming acts of segregation, brutality, and bigotry. The subsequent generation yearned to put an end to the conservation of the past. Everyday Use is a narrative that articulates the tensions caused by two spheres: those unwilling to break free from hardship and freedom, and those yearning to break free from primitivity. Through characterization, Walker examines the serious, intense strains of the rising black movements and their reflection on the bond created between family.
The characters in the story are Mama, Maggie, Dee, and Hakim-a-barber. Mama, the story’s narrator is destitute and lacks any form of education as she was raised in a rural setting. Her hands are rough from the treacherous toil of physical labor she underwent in the rural life (Gioia & Kennedy, 2007). She is a loving mother where her frank open nature inhibits her from deluding herself in her daughter’s weaknesses. Maggie, on the other hand, is a shy daughter that lives with mama. She lacks confidence and shuffles when she walks due to the tragedy she encountered when she was young. She is also a good-hearted, dutiful and kind character portrayed by Walker as fleeing around or hanging in the background.
Mama’s eldest daughter is Dee. She renamed herself as Kemanjo so as to break free from primitivity. She is depicted wearing a dress inappropriate for the weather. She is well educated, and deeply determined as she does not allow her desires to be thwarted. She becomes furious when mama doesn’t yet have her quilts to display and asserts that Maggie and her mama don’t comprehend their heritage. On the contrary, she overlooks the heritage of their family. Hakim-a-barber as a black Muslim. He has long hair and a bushy beard. Additionally, he is short and stocky. He is depicted to be a staunch Muslim who often offers others a greeting in Arabic meaning “peace be to you.” (Gioia et al., 2007) He is depicted to make Maggie uncomfortable often focusing his greetings and attention on her.
Maggie is a flat character as her lack of confidence makes her flee and hang in the background, therefore, has only one outstanding trait, shyness. She stays the same throughout the story. Mama is a round character, this is because her character is presented in-depth in the narrative from her rural life to urban life. Additionally, the character changes significantly throughout the course of the story and her full personalities are revealed gradually. Dee is a dynamic character as she overlooks the important aspects of her family’s history by claiming to understand their heritage. Also, she does not allow her desires to be thwarted and stands out in the course of the story. Lastly, Hakim-a-barber is a static character whose stereotypically entwined in religion and culture throughout the course of the story.
In conclusion, the character I relate to the most is Mama. This is because of her wit to raise her family despite the ongoing racial discrimination and segregation. This makes me like the character more as throughout the course of the story her true character develops. Additionally, through the lives of Dee and Maggie, her life struggles are generally portrayed and come out suggestively.
Gioia, D., & Kennedy, J. X. (2007). Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Longman Pearson.