Last Updated on 02/10/2023 by Sophia
The purpose of this paper is to develop a Foucaultian Theory essay based on the story
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. “Everyday Use” is a story that tells the relationship between a
mother and her daughter in terms of the difference in their identities and heritage. At the
beginning of the “Everyday Use,” Walter introduces Mama as the protagonist while her daughter
Dee is introduced as an antagonist. The story expresses different thematic concerns about family
relationships, African-American heritage, and family values. Thus, this paper aims to develop an
argument that supports the assertion that the protagonist is subordinate to the superior in line
with the story “Everyday Use.” This story also narrates the aspects of Foucault’s power or
knowledge that is drawn from the relationship between “Mama” and her daughter. Mama is the
protagonist in the story who appears as a subordinate to Dee as the superior.
The Conflict between Mama and Dee Demonstrates Foucault’s Power where Dee is
Superior to Mama
The story identifies conflicting ideas between Mama and Dee. They have different
conflicting ideologies on heritage and identities. Mama is an uneducated woman who narrates
the story of Dee after she visited her in college. Mama views her daughter Dee being superior through her description. Symbolically, Mama describes herself as a “big-boned woman with
rough, man-working hands.”(Walker 180). On the other hand, she describes her daughter Dee as
a tender lady with nice hair, full figure, and light complexion. In this quote, the arrival of Dee in
the house raises conflict due to their difference in heritage. In the story, the opinion constructed
on Dee highly depends on Mama’s opinion. Mama makes wrong expectations about her daughter
Dee and her assumptions are quite wrong about Dee and the house. Mama developed a protective
position towards the house when she says, "I have deliberately turned my back on the house" (Walter 51). However, in my personal opinion, Dee likes her house because she never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. Mama and Dee later reunite thereby
demonstrating the Foucault’s power where the protagonist is subordinate to superior.
Mama has Better Opinions than Dee in line with Heritage and Identities
The story presents Mama as the most essential character because the story appears to
thank her. It is through Mama’s voice that we can understand the interpretation of the story. The
story uses the first person narration by Mama to express her as a protagonist who addresses the
dilemma surrounding the civil rights movements. On her fantasy, Mama appears to appreciate
her daughter Dee despite having ideological differences in identities and heritage. Mama says, “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” (Walter 48). This quote indicates that Mama is
subordinate to her daughter Dee even if it appears Dee’s opinions highly depend on Mama’s
opinions. Mama has acted positively towards establishing the African-American heritage. The
quote appears to place a lot of gratitude to Dee but in my personal view, I feel that Mama’s
opinion on heritage and identities has assisted in fighting prejudices from whites.
Mama has More Aspects of the Civil Rights than her Daughter, Dee
Ideally, Mama has more aspects of the civil rights that should be credited to African-
America. Thus, even if she is a protagonist who is subordinate to her daughter, it is quite clear
that Dee has forgotten the aspect of civil rights. According to White, an African-American both
African and American. In terms of the Foucault’s power, Mama is a protagonist who feels that
her daughter, Dee has forgotten that heritage and identities associated with African-Americans.
In fact, Dee gets rid of her name as a way to denounce her identity. This makes Mama to remind
Dee how she got her name. "You [Dee/Wangero] know as well as me you was named after your
aunt Dicie" (Walter 53). This quote indicates that Dee is ready to embrace a new heritage by
changing her name. Initially, Mama is not happy about Dee changing her name. As the story
progresses the Foucault’s power is applied when we learn that Mama does not hesitate to learn as
well as to learn Dee’s new name despite having respected her cultural and ideological decisions.
Overall, In terms of Foucault’s power, the conflict causes Dee’s materialistic and
superficiality approaches on heritage clash the understanding and appreciation of heritage by
Mama. Thus, the conflicts make both the superior and subordinate to be satisfied because Mama
views heritage on its usefulness while Dee views heritage as materialistic aspect with personal
significance. Thus, Mama is the protagonist who shapes the story thereby creating the moral
aspect of the story. To sum up, Mama is the voice of the author who passes a message about
African-American values and heritage unlike Dee, an antagonist.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Janet Gardner, et al. 04th
Ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017. 36-343.