Symbolism in Everyday Use and Araby essay

“Everyday Use” is a symbolic representation of Black movement of 1960s but it does not manifest the Afro-American quest for socio-cultural identity like other Black Movement literature. It symbolizes the conflict that existed within the Afro-American community in a simple way and also presents life in relation to modern and traditional concept of Afro-American heritage. The central conflict is symbolized by two main characters; Mrs. Johnson and Dee. Dee is an epitome of shallow materialism and an adherent of prevailing concept of heritage where heritage is revered only for trendiness and aesthetic attraction whereas Mrs.

Johnson admires heritage for its practical utility and personal importance. Piedmont-Mortob is of the view that central conflict is between Maggie and Dee and “is about whether heritage exists in things or in spirit, or process. ” Dee’s longing for heritage is for ostentatious reasons. Contemporary periodical necessities make her cherish and celebrate her Afro-American heritage. “Dee views her heritage as an artifact which she can possess and appreciate from a distance instead of as a process in which she is always intimately involved. ” (Piedmont-Marton)

But Mrs. Johnson and Maggie have learnt to live with their heritage. Dee is captivated by the beauty of “churn top” and wanted to have it to be used as centerpiece for her alcove table whereas Mrs. Johnson has used it practically for churn butter hitherto. Walker utilizes the butter churn to demonstrate Mrs. Johnson’s intrinsic understanding of heritage. When [Dee] finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my hands. You didn’t even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood.

In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was a beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived. (Walker, “Everyday Use” 412) Alice Walker has introduced various other symbols and figurative language to communicate some thematic expressions. The conflict of heritage becomes more evident as well as critical as the quilts are brought in the story. Piedmont-Marton asserts that; “Quilting symbolizes the process out of which the unimportant and meaningless may be transformed into the valued and useful.

Walker finds this metaphor especially useful for describing African-American women’s lives, which traditional history and literature have often ignored and misrepresented. ”(Piedmont-Marton) The development of Dee into Wangero shows various facets and phases through which black identity passed during late 1960s and 1970s. Predilection for appearance as compared with spirit remained hallmark of this era and this trend is manifested through Dee’s transformation into Wangero. “Dee’s new name, her costume, and her new boyfriend (or husband) are all indicative of her frivolous attitude toward her newly adopted African culture.

” (White) Overall, Walker has invited us start living with our heritage instead of merely cherishing it. She further wants us to search our roots in the American soil instead of locating it on other continents. Araby is a highly symbolic story that takes into account various themes. Religious symbolism permeates the whole story. Joyce introduce the subtle symbolism right from the first line that says; “North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free (Dubliners 29).

” The street symbolizes the blind alley of church that suggest no other way or opening to a world renunciation. This street is apparently silent and peaceful until boys are set free. These boys cam symbolize the anti-church ideas and beliefs that create havoc in the orthodox calmness of the church. Joyce further comments; “The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces (Joyce). ” These “other houses” are an epitome of others aspects of life save church and religion and these houses coordinate with each other.

Another symbolic representation of Church is the setting of the story. Araby is set in Dublin that was a stronghold of Catholics and its beliefs. Furthermore, the well-known “Fall” is epitomized metaphorically in the second paragraph to intensify the religious imagery. Mangan’s sister is a disillusion itself. It is an early obsession and we can not conclude whether she exists now or not. She is symbol of disillusion and Joyce wants to symbolize that imagination is again at work. He feels ridiculed by the shopkeepers.

His disillusionment with the priest who is living a life that is devoid of humility and sacredness further reflects his disappointment not only with himself but also with the social institutions (priest symbolizes church here) as well. The symbolic portrayal of the room where priest dies expose the true nature of church and its characters. Joyce says; “Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers. ”(Joyce) Also, Joyce has symbolically illustrated the psychological transition of an adolescent toward manhood and his mental and emotional experiences.

But Joyce does this with a note of pessimism as his protagonist is disillusioned with the world around him.


Joyce, James. The Dubliners. Penguin Classic Edition. New York: Penguin. 2002. Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. “An Overview of ‘Everyday Use. ‘” Short Stories for Students. Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Thomson Gale. Valencia Community College East Campus Lib. , Orlando. 18 Jan. 2002 <https://www. linccweb. org/eresources. asp>. White, David. “’Everyday Use’: Defining African-American Heritage. ” 2001. Anniina’s Alice Walker Page. 19 Sept. 2002.