Alice Walker is credited with bringing the work of Zora Neale Hurston back into the public eye after years of obscurity. Walker is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer whose most well-known work is the novel The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize. In the story “Everyday Use” Walker considers the subject of cultural heritage from multiple perspectives by focusing on material objects which hold symbolic value.
In a literary work, a symbol generally stands for something beyond itself. The symbol may be an object; it may be a place; it may be a character; it may be an action. Exactly what the symbol stands for is often open to interpretation by the reader.
In “Everyday Use” it is clear that a family’s old quilts have symbolic meaning. What is not so clear is what they symbolize (in this story overall) and what meaning(s) they hold for individual characters.
In a paragraph of about 200 words:
- Analyze the symbolic meanings of the quilts in this story.
- Support your analysis with at least two brief direct quotations (include page # in parenthesis).
- Be sure to identify who is speaking:
- Is the speaker the narrator (and who is the narrator)?
- Is the speaker a character (use proper names)?