In “Everyday Use”, Alice Walker’s intention of the story is to show the social conflict between Dee, a representation of capitalism, and Mama and Maggie, representing traditional values. The story is narrated through Mama, whom best represents the importance of preserving heritage. Mama is uneducated due to the school closing down in 1927; supposedly, the African-Americans were getting too smart to continually be oppressed by the whites. Maggie, the youngest child of Mama, is an extreme introvert who moves with “chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle” since their first house burned down.
Dee, Maggie’s older sister, has always been different since Mama can remember. She always wanted the finer things; things Mama and Maggie never think of. The story envelops on Dee’s visit back home. The purpose of her visit was not a visit Mama hoped to be; however, Mama was cautious and prepared for Dee’s true intentions. I choose to apply Marxist Criticism to this story because Dee is the perfect example of the capitalist superstructure that tries to suppress the society of its traditional values.
Dee, at a young age has already subconsciously employed traits of capitalism in her, read to Mama and Maggie “forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits” that were considered unnecessary knowledge unable to improve their standard of living. Dee had the opportunity to go to school while the opportunity wasn’t extended to Maggie because Mama could only raise enough money to send one of them. Consequently, this has led to Dee wanting “a yellow organdy dress” while Maggie wears simple clothing such as a “pink shirt and red blouse” that she probably made herself out of quilts laying around.
In her visit back home, Dee expressed commodification as discussed in Marxist criticism through her selfish and ignorant desires. She first started her conquest over Mama and Maggie with the churn top her Uncle Buddy whittled out of a tree then the dasher, which Mama reluctantly permits her to take. Her purpose was to use these items as decorations around her house as opposed to their everyday use. In addition to the churn top and dasher, she also wanted the two pieces of quilts her grandmother pieced together; however, Mama had already intended to give them to Maggie when she gets married.
Faced with this rejection, she went on to degrade Maggie and her incapability to appreciate those quilts because she thinks “Maggie’s brain is like an elephant’s. ” In modern world, capitalism doesn’t take “no” for an answer and will do anything and everything to obliterate any opposition; such is the case with Dee being the capitalist woman trying to overpower Maggie whose perception of the quilts is to be used for clothing rather than as an decorative art hung around the house.
Shortly before Dee takes her leave, she implies to Maggie that she should learn from her if she wants to have a better life. However, undaunted by Dee’s remarks, Mama and Maggie went on about their day as if Dee’s visit never actually happened. This shows that it is not necessary to adapt to the base of capitalism in order to live a meaningful life.