The short story, “Everyday Use for Your Grandma” has been critically acclaimed by many as Alice Walker’s most anthologized story. The story goes through the activities that describe the bond between a mother and her daughter and how this bond is a big part of how African American women identify themselves. The book uses humor to show how Dee, one of the daughters in the story, uses excessive zeal as she tries to claim her heritage. Dee, on many occasions, overlooks the truth about what the African American women have gone through in the past, even telling her mother and her sister that they are stuck in the past. The story is narrated by the mother, Mama, who describes the opinions of her daughters who are very different in their nature as well as their exposure to the world. Mama discusses both daughters and their flaws as well as their strengths and how their exposure to the world has contributed to their opinions about their heritage.
From her narration, we learn that Mama is a strong woman who is also very loving. Her character is easy to get along with and she tries to understand her two very different daughters. She is described as a big boned woman which makes her stronger than most women her age or otherwise. She is also mild tempered, frank, forgiving, independent and respectable. Her actions and strength allow her to gain the respect of every reader. In the story, we see that her strong and caring character is sometimes threatened by the stress she goes through raising her two daughters, Dee and Maggie.
Additionally, while she is loving and tolerating of her daughters, she is also critical. This character we see when she when she harshly describes Maggie’s shy and weak character. When Maggie says that Dee can have the quilts, mama thinks to herself that Dee behaved like she was not used to having anything in life or, like she was afraid of the world and only got the answer no for all her requests.The words themselves are not condescending, but their tone is. While many might see Maggie’s actions as selfless, Mama sees them as weak. She also introduces Maggie to the reader in a rather critical way saying “will stand hopelessly in 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 always in the palm of one hand, that ‘no’ is a word the world never learned to say to her” (Walker, 1973). She is also critical of Dee’s air of sophistication and her willingness to through away her family heritage. She believes that Dee has changed because of her education and views her as an arrogant child who condescends her and Maggie. She remembers how Maggie would come from school and read to them. “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” (Walker, 1973). However, even through all this, her love for her daughters remains a constant. Her inner dialogues allow the readers to see what limits a mother’s unconditional love has.
We also see that she is the opposite of a meddling mother. When she is talking to Hakim-a-barber, she notes that he did not tell her whether Dee has gotten married “they did not tell me and I did not ask” (Walker, 1973). While we can tell from this statement that she is curious about whether Dee had gotten married, we also see that she chooses not to stick her nose in the business as it is not hers. This shows that while she is willing to be involved in her daughters’ lives, she is also aware that their freedom is necessary. Throughout the story, we see Mama struggling to raise two daughters as best as she can. She does not deny her struggle. First, she has to make enough money by herself. Then she has to deal with her two daughters, one too shy to accomplish anything and the other too arrogant. Through it all, she does not cease to be loving.